Friday, September 19, 2008

Fish Guide revisited.

A few years ago, I wrote a tiny bit on the NZ Best Fish Guide. It seems that a few other people have also been thinking about the sustainability of the fishing industry lately.

Here's the updated version of the Guide to help Kiwis make decisions about the consumption of local seafoods. http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/bestfishguide/

It takes a great deal of research to assemble these guides. I agree that anyone selling food should know something of its origins and that it is best to frequent establishments that can help you put something more palatable on your plate. However, even knowledgable and responsible fishmongers and wait staff are not the people who determine policy or allocate the funding for continued research into sustainability of our resources.



While the mere mention of politics generally causes me to lose my appetite, I have to say it:

Sustainability needs to become an election issue and elected governments need to support departments and conservation groups who 1) allocate research and resource protection funding and 2) those that determine environmental and foreign trade policies. For so broad a problem, the solutions will be multifaceted.

Fishing methods that have minimal impact need to be evaluated and applied across all species. Our ocean borders need protection from overfishing by foreign fleets. Consideration needs to be given to the sensitivity of fish stocks when including their access in lucrative foreign deals. The state of the fishing industry also depends on ocean transport and the removal of other resources from beneath our ocean floors (impacting feeding grounds, breeding and migratory patterns) as well as many land based activities. Much of the damage to our oceans has been caused by years of thinking that the ocean simply 'carries away' all that we can dump into it. Even if fish are plentiful, we have to consider the impact of introduced species on their health and the effect of industrial and marine effluent on food safety and toxicity. Also to consider are the involvement and possible alternatives for the regional fisheries workers whose living depends on it.


From an all round environmental, economic and humanistic standpoint, the sustainability of our edible ocean resources needs to come to the forefront.

Here's how the NZ system works.
Unlike our fish stocks, the debate as to whether it's too late or not can go on forever. Whether you live in a small coastal town where you still get fish from the wharf, are a rural consumer trying to wade through the plastic packages of supermarket offerings or are an inner city dweller with no connection to the fishing industry save for noticing the rising prices of Chilean seabass on your favourite restaurant menu.. I think it is unquestionable that the situation is grim. We do know what our actions of the past 50-100 years have achieved and logically, continuing along the current path can only cause the situation to worsen.

Eating as local as possible is one way to reduce stress on the planet and increase the freshness of your food. And when you cannot, making informed choices about where your all your food comes from and how it is grown and harvested is the best way to minimise the impact and ensure that sustainable products are the ones that are in demand. Where there is a demand, other producers will follow suit. 




So how can the local species swim forever?

Consider the big picture: use your guide, ask where your fish comes from and VOTE accordingly. 

TIAKINA NGA TAONGA O TANGAROA: The phrase comes from the title of a report by the New Zealand Fisheries Task Force (1992): Sustainable Fisheries: Tiakina nga Taonga a Tangaroa.

Photo credits: André Gallant (unless otherwise specified).

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