Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Why Don't I Eat Fish?

Why don't I eat fish? 

People often ask me this when I eat out, as it's my only dietary restriction, and it seems odd to a lot of people including the "vegetarians" who have somehow (mysteriously) decided that fish are a kind of vegetable.

I am actually a pretty good fresh-water angler and love to eat fish (especially flounder, sole, swordfish, tuna) but I gave up eating fish more than two decades ago as it became clear that wild fisheries management was not possible under existing international law, and the science of aquaculture was not yet developed to the point where it was entirely safe on all scores.

Fisheries management is not easy, but by now it's pretty clear that aquaculture is the only way forward, same as poultry houses replaced pheasant hunting, and cattle ranching replaced buffalo hunts. We can repurpose horse and chicken waste (as energy and fertlizer for example), but we cannot quickly grow back an ocean bottom that has been trawled, nor do we (yet) know how to pen-raise swordfish, nor can we harvest wild shrimp without at least seven pounds of bycatch tossed overboard.

The problem of course, is that we now have too many mouths to feed in this world, and so as the world is new so must we think anew. Part of thinking anew is rethinking some of the less-sustainable food sources we have in this world.

Job One, the world has agreed, is to end whaling, as well as the killing of sea turtles and the harvest of sea turtle eggs.

Job Two is to get better at aquaculture, and we are quickly doing that, as I noted in an informal email I wrote some years back and which I now see has been picked up by the folks at Sea Shepherd.

Will I ever eat fish again?  Maybe. Tilapia (a genus of African cichlid with about 100 member species) is being farmed in a logical way that keeps the fish-food sources very low on the chain (i.e. the food is soybeans) while keeping the antibiotic and parasite load pretty low as well.  We shall see.  Maybe it's time to greenlight Tilapia?  I am not sure, but I am keeping my option opens.  As the world is new, so must I (slowly) think anew.


Mar said...

Your idea here is excellent especially about Tilapia Fish. I have a small tilapia pond in my country and I must say that if you want to save more money better to have a fish pond rather than buying it in the wet market.

Marie said...

I love tilapia. Try it you'll like it. Nice, mild flavor, filets stay firm, well priced and often on sale.

Anton said...

Dan Barber did a great ted talk about fish farming:

check out his foie gras talk too if you have the time.

grapfhics said...

More fish have escaped my bait and lures that I want to admit, but Tilapia? no thanks, that is asking too much.