Today’s Subject: Fish & Such.
A tuna has been sold at auction in Tokyo’s fish market for 16.28 million yen ($175,000, £109,000),
Tuna stocks are running low, but it tastes so f'n good! What should I do?
the highest price paid in Japan for nine years.
No word if the purchaser paid cash, put 5% down, or is planning to move his family into the starter bluefin tuna.
I enjoy seafood. I’ve always loved sushi, and bluefin tuna (Tsukji) was often a part of my order. In fact, if you saw me at sushi place, and I was a foot shorter, millions richer, and a bigger douchebag, you might confuse me with Jeremy Piven.
Homo sapiens have done their best to mess with oceanic ecosystems. On the other hand, seafood can please the tongue. On yet another hand, some fish like tuna contain so much mercury (poison) that it is not really safe to eat. So is it possible to be healthy, show respect for the sea, and maintain the smug satisfaction of letting people know you saw the local weatherman at that new overpriced Japanese restaurant? Let’s see.
Sustainability According to the WWF, unless catches are dramatically reduced (as in a complete halt to fishing in May and June), spawning bluefin tuna will entirely disappear from the east Atlantic by 2012.
Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries and WWF Mediterranean said,
Mediterranean (Atlantic) bluefin tuna is collapsing as we speak and yet the fishery will kick off again tomorrow for business as usual. It is absurd and inexcusable to open a fishing season when stocks of the target species are collapsing.
When new quota levels for bluefin tuna were set last November (’08), amid political wrangling, they were described as being a ‘mockery of science’, ignoring the evidence that the East Atlantic bluefin tuna populations were falling so quickly that they could soon be listed as an endangered species.
And that’s just the Atlantic. No one catches or eats more bluefin and yellow tail tuna than the Japanese. The fact is, we’re overfishing with no end in sight.
From a recent article in The Economist:
A recent study by the US Geological Survey (USGS) found traces of methylmercury, a form of mercury that is readily absorbed, in every fish sampled in 291 streams across the country. In around a quarter of those fish, the amount of mercury was above the level set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as safe for human consumption. Mercury levels at more than two-thirds of the sites exceeded what scientists believe fish-eating mammals, such as mink and otters, should ingest.
The leading source of mercury is pollution from coal-burning power plants, which accounts for 40% of all domestic anthropogenic mercury, according to the EPA. It is emitted through smokestacks and deposited in rain and snow, often making its way into the water. Mercury can be toxic, and adult exposure to it can lead to reproductive problems, memory loss and tremors. Prenatal and infant exposure can cause mental retardation, deafness and blindness. The National Research Council, an organisation that looks at science and public policy, estimates that more than 60,000 children are born each year at risk of learning disabilities because they have been exposed to methylmercury in the womb.
The fish lobby points out that the USGS findings do not necessarily damn the commercial fish industry, as most of the fish people eat comes from the ocean and not from freshwater streams. But mercury levels are high in marine fish, too—particularly in larger species, such as shark, tuna and swordfish. Mercury accumulates as it works its way up the food chain. A report released earlier this year by Harvard and the USGS forecasts that mercury levels in the Pacific Ocean will rise by 50% by 2050 as emissions from coal-fired power plants increase.
Consumers are now trying to understand how the USGS study’s findings should influence their eating habits.. This shows the need for clearer guidance from the EPA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on fish consumption by pregnant women, says Richard Wiles of the Environmental Working Group, which keeps an eye on toxins in food. He says the FDA has “historically been in the pocket of the tuna industry”, and has failed to give specific directives about how to get the health benefits of fish while avoiding mercury. The news about mercury also underscores the importance of developing a federal policy to control emissions.
What to do?
Waiting for the nations of the world to agree on (yet alone, enforce) catch limits or limit on pollutants is probably an exercise in futility. If the ramifications of your food consumption tickles your conscience, here’s a pretty standard list of the “eco-impact” of popular seafood.
All Eco-Worst Fish »
If you need a tuna fix, the MSC recommends white albacore tuna. Unfortunately, I can’t shake the idea that these hippies may be right:
Faced with ocean acidification, coral reef die-offs, dead zones, the doubtful shadow of oceanic geoengineering, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, piracy caused by overfishing, chemical and sonic pollution – and now the starvation of larger marine animals – isn’t it time to do the oceans a favour by eating less fish or not at all?
Swim on, you crazy diamonds.