The Plight of Our Ocean Fish

Japanese Fish Market and Bluefin Tuna

Not to beat a dead fish, but I can’t get the thought of overfishing off my mind.

My awareness of the issue has grown considerably, and now I see article after article about it. Overfishing seems to be a serious problem that is not going away anytime soon unless we decide to make hard choices as a society to enact and enforce regulations that will allow fish populations to flourish once again. Apparently, this could mean a complete moratorium on fishing for certain species.

I highly recommend a recent book by oceanographer and scientist, Sylvia Earle, called The World is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean’s Are One. With over 50 years of ocean studies and explorations behind her, Earle provides clear, expert analysis on the state of our oceans.

I also just encountered an article written by Elizabeth Kolbert in the August 2, 2010 issue of the New Yorker called The Scales Fall. She focuses in particular on the overfishing of bluefin tuna. Current research reflects an 80% decrease in the bluefin tuna population since the 1940’s. Earle suggests that up to 95% of some fish species (including bluefin) have been killed and that eating bluefin is “comparable to dining on snow leopard or panda.”Measuring Bluefin Tuna

Additionally, I came across this “Catch of the Day” book review from the NY Times (a book that Kolbert references) about Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg.

Earlier this summer, I wrote a brief bit for EcoSalon about the problem from a consumer’s perspective. I struggle with the fact that one of my favorite foods- and one that is supposed to be so good for my health- is probably not something I should be eating. Does it really matter if I go out for sushi? Someone else will eat it anyway if I don’t, right?

The unfortunate fact is, I can no longer eat fish with a clear conscience. I have to believe that the choices we all make as individuals do matter. From now on, I’m limiting my fish intake as much as possible. I may not enjoy the discipline of it…but soon- if fish populations such as bluefin tuna disappear entirely- I may not have any choice in the matter.


Images: Fisherman, Jose Cort, New Yorker Cartoon

New Yorker Cartoon from the August 2, 2010 issue


2 responses to “The Plight of Our Ocean Fish

  1. I’ve been reading the same articles, and also struck by the dramatic destruction of fish populations. Unfortunately, when I speak to some friends/relatives, their response is, “That’s why I get mine while the getting’s still good!” :(

    What are your thoughts on occasionally eating fish further down the food chain, like sardines and anchovies? As you know, I eat no fish (or meat) whatsoever, but I do like to have moderate suggestions for friends who care about sustainability.

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