As mentioned in the substitution page for fish, being the mother of an adult son who, at the age of about 7 or 8, fell in love with the ocean and ocean animals, eating fish has never been a comfortable choice in our family! So of course, he was the one to take this part of our family presentation. More and more nutritionists and health professionals are encouraging us to turn to fish and seafood instead of land animals for meat. While the health benefits make sense, the sustainability of fish does not. If everyone turned to fish, what would happen to our oceans? Read on for my son’s perspective.
While the number of aquatic animals killed each year is not reported, it is huge–much more than poultry, beef, lamb and pigs combined. Meticulous calculations by researcher Noam Mohr estimated that over 53 billion aquatic animals were used for American consumption in 2010.
According to a UN report in 2012, almost 30 percent of the world’s wild fisheries are “over-exploited,” and more than 57 percent of wild fisheries are “at or very close” to the limit.
The typical commercial fishing method is a trawl net. Essentially, a giant net is dragged along catching anything any everything in its path, including “bycatch,”which is sea life other than what is intended to by caught. Currently the top consumed seafood item is shrimp, but did you know that for every 1 pound of shrimp on our dinner plates, up to 20 pounds of other sea creatures were killed and tossed back into the sea? It is estimated that global bycatch may amount of 40% of the world’s catch, totaling 63 billions pounds per year (add that to the number of pounds that is used for consumption, and the number of aquatic animals killed each year is astronomical).
Environmental and government organizations are working towards solutions, but at this time, truth be told no “sustainable” fish really exists. Efforts to identify sustainable fish for consumers are not necessarily reliable. The vast majority of the worlds fisheries are overtaxed, and even if everyone were to start eating a fish that was currently doing okay, that fishery would soon become exploited itself.
This is all not to mention the pain that these fish go through as they are crammed together in a net and dragged up through large changes in pressure only to suffocate to death. And although fish often seem very different from us, they feel pain in much the same way that mammals do
Aquaculture, or farmed fish, has its own host of problems, similar to the conditions of farmed animals, farmed fish are typically overcrowded and left in filthy working conditions. They have a much higher rate of disease than wild fish. Farmed fish that are predatory, tuna for example, can actually cause a net loss of fish from the oceans because they are fed by fish that are ocean caught.