This time of year is a time of fasting in many religious traditions. And perhaps it is with that perspective I have been noticing more and more friends giving up fish because of increasing awareness that technically ALL fish are endangered. Do you remember how furious you got when Cecil the lion was shot by that dentist? Well we are doing the same thing every time we go out for sushi, or eat any fish for that matter.
Yes ALL fish are technically endangered. And it’s not just Tuna, Chilean Sea Bass and sea turtles. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/jan/09/overfishing-pacific-bluefin-tuna.
The International body responsible for classification of species – The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) keeps a “Red List of Threatened Species.”http://www.iucnredlist.org/technical-documents/categories-and-criteria The Red List defines Endangered Species specifically when any of the following 5 categories is met:
1) Population reduction rate. A species is classified as endangered when its population has declined between 50 and 70 percent. This decline is measured over 10 years or three generations of the species, whichever is longer. http://education.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/endangered-species/
Criteria 1 – check. There is much evidence that our seas have been overfished from 50% – 90%. That is to say only half of fish remain compared to baseline healthy fish populations. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/01/19/why-weve-been-hugely-underestimating-the-overfishing-of-the-oceans/. Imagine half of the human population disappeared in 20 years? Half of your town? Half of all pandas or other cuddly mammals we love?
I do believe this warm-touchy-feely-gut-check is where we lose or compassion for fish. When a mammal is endangered we circle the wagons (sadly not even all of us then). But there is more of a social consensus around protecting mammals in the order in which we would want to snuggle with them: pandas first, the warm blooded and furriest, then elephants, warm blooded but non-furry, then aquatic mammals like dolphins, and last, all the poor non-mammal endangered species, from Tuna to Chilean Sea Bass. https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/directory?direction=desc&sort=extinction_status
Putting the two together: overfishing on the one hand, and the definition of endangered species on the other, you can say that all fish are endangered species. And we are the cause. This is not one of those cases where forest clearing results in loss of habitat or it was a rare exotic species to begin with, all fish populations as reported by the government-sanctioned commercial fishing fleets around the world report they are only able to find half of what they did just 20 years ago. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/01/19/why-weve-been-hugely-underestimating-the-overfishing-of-the-oceans/. So it stands to reason, if our demand for fish is the cause of the problem, then we can simply stop demanding fish. And Mr. Whiskers’ demand for fish while we’re at it.
The truly great thing is fish are one of the few endangered *species* we have the power, from our homes, in the U.S., and in our daily actions to help save. By giving up fish we can truly reverse these trends toward extinction and help save our planet in the process. In the words of Captain Paul Watson “If the Ocean Dies, We All Die!”
Shout out to Long Island Sound in the video^
Absent giving up fish entirely, try to eat only the most sustainable fish. There are some great and very accessible resources out there from wallet-sized cheat sheets to online resources and even an app https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/safe-seafood/id298107741?mt=8.