What’s In Your Fish?!

November 14, 2011

I’ve been learning some awful things about seafood lately. For example:

The U.S. inspects only TWO PERCENT of all imported seafood.

What percentage of all seafood in the U.S. is imported?

EIGHTY FIVE PERCENT.

Of that two percent that’s actually tested, FORTY PERCENT of seafood tests “positive for banned drugs that are not safe for human health,” carcinogens like nitrofuran and and malachite green. And there are many, many more chemicals aren’t even tested for.

On top of that, half of the world’s seafood is raised in farms, and antibiotics are liberally dumped into the water of farmed fish.

Most people consider fish to be the healthiest of meats. But considering the carcinogens, chemicals and antibiotics that come along with the fish, it’s looking like this belief is incorrect.

On to the environmental consequences of seafood: did you know that for about 7-8 shrimp caught by commercial fishing, TEN POUNDS of ‘trash fish’ are killed and thrown, dead, as trash, back into the ocean?? I learned that fun fact from this TED talk by Brian Skerry, a man who’s been photographing the seas for the last 30 years.  He’s witnessed the changes that have happened  in that brief timespan, and shares some incredibly beautiful, and incredibly awful, underwater photos.

In this fish-related article, which you should read, since it’s by one of my favorite writers Mark Morford, Morford vacillates between hope and despondency when faced with the reality of running out of tuna. There are a mere 9,000 bluefin tuna left in the Gulf, now surely many fewer after the BP spill and the dispersal chemicals the company dumped into the ocean – which turn out to be even more toxic than the oil itself.

“Destroy them, and we destroy more than just another everyday, “disposable” species. Their destruction will be a profound marker, a signifier of something far larger and more ominous. Like the honeybees, like the drowning polar bears, like the fresh water crisis, the end of tuna will be of those epic fails we look back upon in a few years and say, “There. Right there. That was one of the signs.” We don’t get many more.

My Republican moment came as I was nearing the end of the piece, feeling sickened and increasingly depressed, to the point where a sense of abject fatalism finally struck, a sense of just giving up, that wickedly painful moment where the heart has to step away from the scene before it implodes, and the survivalist/capitalist mind takes over and just powers through the nightmare, greedily gabbing on to whatever bits of gristle it can suckle.”

Our oceans, aside from being poisoned with runoff and heat and acid and chemical pollution and oil spills and dispersals, are being fished to the point of emptiness. From overfishing.org:

Worldwide, about 90% of the stocks of large predatory fish are already gone.

In 1900 our oceans contained at least six times more fish than they do in 2009.

I could go on, but I’m sure you’re already getting depressed.

While I love seafood, I cut way back a few years ago after my Ayurvedic doctor counseled me against consuming it. He says that seafood rots quickly in your digestive system and contributes to acidity; I tend towards acidity anyways, so it’s something I should avoid (this may or may not be true for other people, though the American diet is heavily acidic).

I am planning on attending one last high-end sushi dinner at a closed-door restaurant here in Buenos Aires in December, but after learning all of the above, after that I am considering giving up seafood entirely; for my own health and the health of the planet. We’ve all heard the Gandhi’s quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Well, the change I wish to see is the end of the destruction of our oceans, and I definitely wish not to get cancer. So if giving up seafood is a step in those directions, that’s what I choose to do.

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3 Responses to “What’s In Your Fish?!”

  1. D said

    I’ve heard pretty scary descriptions of foreign shrimp farms–too gross to describe.

    There was an interesting story recently about how a lot of fish for sale is labeled as a different species from the actual species. I found it interesting in light of the lists of fish to avoid because of high mercury content (hard to follow if you don’t even know what you’re buying).

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2011/10/25/141682168/a-dna-check-reveals-widespread-fish-mislabeling-in-massachusetts

    Excerpt:

    Two intrepid reporters at the Boston Globe set out to figure out just how bad one form of fish fraud — mislabeling — is in restaurants, markets and grocery stores across the state. They collected 183 samples of fish from 134 sites and hired a laboratory in Canada to check the DNA. And they published their results in a two-part series this week: scientists found that 87 of 183 were sold with the wrong species name — some 48 percent.

    “… if you’re at a sushi restaurant and they’re serving red snapper, it’s almost definitely not red snapper,” Globe reporter told NPR’s Melissa Block last night on All Things Considered. “It’s probably tilapia. And if you’re ordering white tuna, it’s also probably not white tuna. You’re probably going to get escolar.”

    (If you’re not familiar with escolar, it has the unpalatable nickname of “the ex-lax fish” because it sometimes causes gastrointestinal problems.)

  2. lunasealife said

    Our food situation is so messed up… How can you even have a conversation about health when most of the food in our system is poisoned or incorrectly labelled?! We’re being fed LIES, LIIIIIES! 😉

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