Monday, June 6, 2011

Chicken soup? Some facts about the seafood industry

Every year as many as 73 million sharks are killed for their fins. That's 200 000 sharks EVERYDAY. Their fins are simply cut off and the shark is dumped back into the ocean to die. The reason for this ridiculously high number of shark deaths is the deeply rooted luxurious and medical status shark fin has the Chinese culture, but also an increased interest for exotic Eastern cuisine in the Western world. The funny thing is that shark fin on its own is completely tasteless. The taste comes from hours of boiling with ginger, spring onions, an chicken stock. I'm sorry (actually I'm not) but HOW RIDICULOUS IS THAT???

Here's a video from Washington Post about the issue, and if you want to you can read the original article yourself.

Thankfully, activists are trying to confront and deal with the industry which is rapidly growing due to a increasingly wealthy Chinese population in addition to the interest for exotic cuisine in the Occident (the west). What scares me is that a growing world population is putting more and more strain on food resources which is particularly problematic with oceanic resources. An increased demand for seafood and fish due to a healthier dietary focus in the wealthy Occident opens economic possibilities for Asian countries where these resources can be harvested more amply, not to mention cheaply.

For example, food like scampi is a popular dish in Britain as well as Europe and America. It says 'scampi' on the menu, but it is highly likely that what you get served is prawns. Real scampi is actually a kind of lobster called (believe it or not) Norway lobster which is quite exclusive. Instead, you're likely to be eating king prawns in your 'scampi dish' - king prawns that are cultivated in shrimp farms in Asia. These farms are responsible for grave impacts on natural habitats.

To get an impression of the impact we have had on the resources in the ocean, have a look at this article from the Guardian. The infographic might be somewhat confusing considering the choice of colour, but I think you can appreciate that the fish stocks are heavily depleted. Did you know that during the 20th century the amount of predators in the ocean was reduced by 90%? And think about how much tuna is consumed everyday in Britain alone, not only in cheap sandwiches and jacket potatoes but also in increasingly popular, healthy and trendy sushi.

Personally I find these facts disturbing and they are that reason why I went from being a pescetarian to being a vegetarian. I'm not trying to convert anyone but I think it is important make people aware of the impact our eating habits have on nature's resources so that they will perhaps think twice the next time they order food.

Thankfully, there are forces at work (like Ocean2012) who work to stop overfishing and destructive fishing practices. I'm not saying the world needs to stop eating fish, but we NEED to stop eating cheap seafood which is caught or farmed in uncontrolled and potentially illegal circumstances, only to satiate a perpetual demand for seafood. And for the love of God, don't eat shark fin soup. It's fucking chicken soup...

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