Tuesday, 12 April 2011


This is a difficult subject for me to blog about for two reasons: there is a significant amount of debate about the numbers of fish left in our oceans and I don't believe either side of the debate, and I really love eating fish.  So I am having a bit of internal conflict.  I know what I needs to said, but I'm not all that excited to say it.

On the bright side, there really is a lot that can be done, if the wider public just educates itself about sustainable fishing.  Unfortunately, the debate is making it hard for people to understand the issues and the solutions.  This issue has been debated to death, and yet fish stocks continue to decline.  I don't think that it's because people don't care.  If you are interested in watching an excellent, if not a bit one-sided, movie about the issue, "The End of the Line" really covers it well.  I don't think anyone knows exactly what is happening with our oceans' fish stocks, however, even if only 1/10th of the depletion that is discussed in the movie has actually occured or is going to occur, that's sufficient reason for me to cut way back on my consumption of fish.

I believe that the public's awareness of overfishing may have only gained widespread notoriety as a result of the "dolphin-unfriendly" campaign around tuna fishing.  I think it's sad that we need something to happen to a likable animal before we, as a group, decide we care enough to do something about it.  Well, despite the awareness of how tuna fishing affects dolphins, and in spite of the fact that our society has decided we care, dolphin numbers are still suffering.  The scariest part is that tuna, marlin and other fish whose stocks are either declining or have collapsed completely, are not cute enough to build a motivating logo about.  They're scary, they're ugly, and people love to eat them.  Realistically, with the way things are going, in fifty years all the types of fish that we most love to eat are no longer going to be available, and all we're going to have is pollock. 

Well, it's time for us all to wake up or just accept that in fifty years we're going to be eating a lot more fish fingers (usually they are made of pollock).  More than a decade ago, the World Resources Institute published a report calling the fisheries decline "urgent".  The scientific journal Nature published a report in 2003 saying stocks of large fish (cod, tuna, swordfish, etc.) had been depleted by 90%.  Numerous scientists and studies have been telling us for years now that our fisheries are at risk of collapse.  And yet we don't seem to be willing to do anything about it.  I think it is probably because we don't know what we can do about it.

The major thing that everyone should do in order to make a difference on this issue is to learn which types of fish are farmed or harvested sustainably and only eat those types of fish. If you live in the US, go to this webpage, where you can type in the type of fish you would like to know about and it will tell you what issues there are around the particular species.  Alternatively, if you go to this webpage, there are a number of guides available (sushi, regional and national guides) that you can print out and keep for reference that will allow you to know which types of fish you can or should eat.  If you live in Canada, go to this Agriculture Canada site, where there are fact sheets on different types of fish and seafood, or, go here for the SeaChoice Alert Card, which contains an easy pocket reference guide.  If you want to go a step further than not eating fish that is not sustainably farmed, you can also support restaurants that sell sustainably farmed fish (or choose not to support those that don't).  If you live in Vancouver, you can check this website to find out whether a restaurant serves sustainable seafood.


  1. I watched a documentary a few days ago. It detailed that due to the tiny increase in ocean temperature (climate change) the conditions for jellyfish to breed has allowed them to reproduce exponentially. Fisherman around the world had pulled up nets where there were more jellies than fish, and all the fish were dead because of the stinging jellies... I'll see if I can find the name of the documentary...

  2. Thanks Roland! I would be very interested to watch that. Climate change just adds a whole new dimension to this issue.