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Fish in Danger!

The overabundant fishing of the seas and the pollution and damages to the world environment as a cause there of, is a current and much discussed theme today.  My christmas letter to you this year will address the question:

What Fish can I serve on my Table?

The variety in the forms of life on our planet is immense but by no means inexhaustible.  From the beginnings of the seventeenth century, there is evidence in the decrease of biological life in existence, decisively due to human intervention.  If you consider that daily 130 forms of life perish to never appear again, then it becomes clear how more and more aggressive Man is acting towards Mother Nature.

Only lately have we come to realize that the destruction, overpopulation and pollution of our living space not only affects the soil under our feet but equally endangers the climate and the oceans.  Our earth is an interdependent ecological system.  When a species ceases to exist forever, this is not merely a loss of that species itself, but the chain of health in the ecological system is thrown off-balance and presents an incalculable risk for all of mankind.

The marine ecological system has reached its breaking point!  Unbelievable amounts of fish species have simply collapsed.  The most commercially fished species such as tuna, swordfish, codfish, halibut etc., are almost non-existent!  Nobody knows how the loss of this predatory species will affect the structure and function of the seas.

Today, we Europeans form the largest market of fish and seafood worldwide, so it’s up to us to stop consuming cheap fish. If we, the European consumers, demand fish products to come from ecological accepted sources, then we will be in the position to change the demand.  This is only going to happen slowly, but it will surely take place.  We must be conscious about the reality of the fish crisis and the different roots which lead to it.  Overabundant fishing, destructive fishing methods and the gigantic quantities of collaterally caught unwanted fish are the main reasons which have lead to the desolate situation that our oceans are in now.  To give you an example: when fishing for sole, one single fishing expedition for this fish causes the death and waste of 80% (!) of other fish caught in the nets; wasted fish, which is then thrown back dead into the ocean. There is no need to treat the unwanted fish as garbage; there are ways to reduce the amount of unwanted fish to a minimum by changing the fishing methods.  When fishing for tuna, for example, the sea turtle is the collateral.  It would be so easy to avoid maiming and destroying the turtles by simply changing the form of the fishing hook.  If alternative subsidy practices were adopted, if the fishing fleets would adapt their fishing quota to the existences and conventional fishing methods and tools were substituted for more sensible ones, it would be a great step to avoid the death of so many living beings.

Unfortunately, fish farms or piscicultures are not the alternative for keeping the environment intact. Standard fish farms are producing in water the exact problems seen today in mass livestock production.  Pollution through feces, feed residues, chemicals, antibiotics and hormones, to name a few, are endangering the local living space surrounding the fish farms.
Piscicultures of predatory fish such as tuna fish farms in the Mediterranean Sea consume enormous amounts of wild fish caught as fodder, which in turn, disturbs the natural balances.

As consumers, it is our responsibility to ensure endurable fishing practices, to preserve the life of marine species and keep the oceans healthy. Due, however, to the circumstance that it is very difficult to obtain enough information about the provenance of the fish product, production conditions and proper fishing methods, we should make the effort to read the following tips and suggestions:

The "Fishfuehrer" a pocket fish guide, provides us with a general overview regarding the biological features of the species, the ecological effects of fishing activities and overall fish management.  (To be obtained through the WWF or Greenpeace).

The alternative to consuming fish from conventional, profit oriented fish industries is to buy fish from ecological piscicultures, or bio-fish farms.  The Bio-fish industry is not mass productive; it pays attention to keeping the waters clean, free of pollution and endeavors to conserve the environment in their producing firms.   This industry shuns the use of hormones and chemical fertilizers.  By maintaining low quantities of fish in their fish reservoirs the use of medications is reduced to a minimum.  Purchasing fish from these sources is a definite help to relieving the heavily overfished seas and is an active contribution to world conservation.

The Marine Stewardship Council issues a quality certification in the form of the blue MSC quality seal.  Although seldom found in the market, it is a stepping stone towards achieving a long lasting fishing practice.  The MSC certificate is issued to conservationist fishing firms endeavoring to maintain lasting fish reserves.  For all that, 42% of the world wide wild salmon fisheries are now recognized with the MSC certificate.

With this in mind, I wish all readers a Merry Christmas and an enjoyable meal while consuming a certified salmon or a delicious unobjectionable Christmas carp!

For further information go to:
www.msc.org