Mark Bittman on the Future of Fish

future of fish graphic

from great graphic in the New York Times

It isn't just bluefin Tuna that is under threat; The New York Times' food writer Mark Bittman writes that " if current fishing practices continue, the world's major commercial stocks will collapse by 2048."

But it is not just the trophy fish that North Americans like to eat, but also forage fish like herring, anchovies and sardines that are under siege.

bc fish farm photo

fish farm in British Columbia
These smaller fish are eaten not only by the endangered fish we love best, but also by many poor and not-so-poor people throughout the world. (And even by many American travelers who enjoy grilled sardines in England, fried anchovies in Spain, marinated mackerel in France and pickled or raw herring in Holland — though they mostly avoid them at home.)

But the biggest consumers of these smaller fish are the agriculture and aquaculture industries. Nearly one-third of the world's wild-caught fish are reduced to fish meal and fed to farmed fish and cattle and pigs. Aquaculture alone consumes an estimated 53 percent of the world's fish meal and 87 percent of its fish oil. (To make matters worse, as much as a quarter of the total wild catch is thrown back — dead — as "bycatch.")

It takes three pounds of forage fish to feed one pound of farmed salmon. Bittman points out that aquaculture is following the pattern of livestock agriculture:

Edible food is being used to grow animals rather than nourish people.

Bittman concludes that we have to learn to love sardines and herring, so that we would be less inclined to feed them to salmon. His prediction:

An optimistic but not unrealistic assessment of the future is that we'll have a limited (and expensive) but sustainable fishery of large wild fish; a growing but sustainable demand for what will no longer be called "lower-value" smaller wild fish; and a variety of traditional aquaculture where it is allowed. This may not sound ideal, but it's certainly preferable to sucking all the fish out of the oceans while raising crops of tasteless fish available only to the wealthiest consumers.

Myself, I'd rather eat wild cod once a month and sardines once a week than farm-raised salmon, ever.

A Seafood Snob Ponders the Future of Fish in the New York Times

More Fish Stories in TreeHugger:

\US Should Push for Bluefin Tuna Fishing Moratorium, Conservation Groups Say
Pacific Tuna Overfishing to be Addressed in Panama City
Fishing Ban Enacted for Bluefin Tuna in Eastern Atlantic & Mediterranean
The Carbon Footprint of Sushi
Farmed Fish:
Animation Shows How Sea Lice From Fish Farms Can Reduce Wild Salmon Population
Deep Impacts: salmon farms threaten marine life and human health
30,000 Farmed Salmon Make A Break For It

Mark Bittman in TreeHugger and Planet Green

Mark Bittman TED Video: Link Between Food and the Environment
On Moving Toward Vegetarianism
In the Sunday Papers: Meat and Water
Microwave Macaroni for Your Lunch Today : Foods : Planet Green

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