Monday, July 16, 2007

The Times Goes Fishing

The New York Times devoted a sizable chunk of yesterday's opinion page to seafood issues. Of course none of the news is good, and reading three different authors riff on various aspects just gives us a sinking feeling.

Trevor Corson, who we cited in an earlier post as authoring a new book on the history of Sushi, issues a plea for an attitude adjustment among American diners. It was Americans, Corson submits, who introduced big, fatty fish such as the endangered bluefin tuna to the sushi experience. We need to develop a taste for other, more sustainable kinds of seafood that are more traditional in Japan. Put down those chopsticks, take a seat at the sushi bar and let the chef show what he can do with humbler ingredients, Corson urges.

Taras Gresco, who has a book of his own on the slaughter at sea coming out soon, weighs in on the lack of adequate inspection of foreign seafood. The U.S. is being flooded with 6.6 million tons of seafood annually from more than 100 different countries. Yet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration receives scant funding to make inspections. Farmed fish in Asia too often are swimming in chemicals or animal feces. Witness the ban on five different varieties of seafood imported from China. But one way or another, tainted seafood manages to find its way into the country.

Finally, Steven A. Shaw questions why women--especially pregnant women--are warned not to eat seafood. In Japan, he says, the situation is quite the opposite: Pregnant women are counseled to eat plenty of seafood for good health. Most health problems associated with seafood originate with shellfish, he says.

Missing in all this is any sign of hope for the world's fisheries. Bottom line: It doesn't matter much where the seafood is coming from, we--meaning humans--are rapidly eating our way through the oceans' bounty and destroying the planet's largest ecosystems. Unless stern measures are taken--and we're not expecting any soon--there won't be any point fishing. There'll be very little to catch.


Anonymous said...

I didn't read the articles in the NYTimes, but it seems that what is never mentioned in all the discussions of sustainability is our planet's burgeoning population. I'm wondering why not.

Ed Bruske said...

The population problem is not always metioned in the newspapers, but it is definitely an issue being discussed on the literary end. More people eating more fish, not a good prescription for the oceans