Pixel Tracker

Wednesday, January 16 , 2019, 5:12 am | Mostly Cloudy 52º

 
 
 
 

Karen Telleen-Lawton: For Love of All the Fish in Sea

I remember fishing with my dad, using mussels on a simple hook to catch perch in the surf. We would fry them up on a scrapwood fire right on the beach. I wasn’t much of a fish connoisseur, but to me it tasted like the whole ocean: crispy, creamy, salty, sandy and above all, fresh.

When I first realized that fish were swimming right there among us, I was a little anxious about swimming in the ocean. I still think of this when I venture in the surf now, but these days there’s less chance of an encounter.

In the last 50 years, commercial fishing has hunted out two and a half times more fish than its population can sustain. Of the largest predator species, 90 percent of their respective populations have disappeared since the 1950s.

This is a whale of a problem for non-fish consumers as well as avid fish lovers.

Fish gourmands (my husband among them) may have noticed the increasing impoverishment of their options. In the same way that we’ve narrowed our meat diet to cow, chicken, sheep and pig, our fish choices have narrowed mainly to shrimp, tuna, salmon and cod.

None of these is being fished sustainably, for reasons as diverse as habitat destruction, carbon-intensive feed and bycatch.

I’m an indifferent fish eater who serves fish mainly for health reasons, but you’re probably one step ahead of me in wondering if fish is really a healthy choice anymore.

Many favored fish live decades in the ocean. Mercury accumulates in these top predators, especially tuna, swordfish, halibut and orange roughy, so human health concerns may dictate reducing fish consumption. Meanwhile, factory ships with fifty-mile long nets result in far more wasted bycatch than catch.

If you’re not really into fish eating, you may shrug at yet another resource that has been more than maxed out, but the emptying ocean affects us all.

At a time when one billion people are malnourished, fish production has been flat for decades. World population is expected to increase by two and a half billion in the next 35 years.

Aquaculture is one promising solution, but has quickly taken on agribusiness-like labels. It can pollute, destroy habitat and be inefficient. Farmed tuna, for instance, requires 15 pounds of feed per pound of tuna. Fortunately, great strides are being made in fish farming.

Whole cycle deep sea farming maintains kelp forests in a healthy nutrient cycle, and former estuaries drained for cattle lots in Spain have been rehabilitated for fish farms.

If fish eating is part of what makes life livable for you, you can encourage fish sellers and restaurants to operate their businesses sustainably. Get in the habit of asking about seafood’s sources:

» Where is it from?

» Who raised it?

» What did it eat?

With the pressure of educated consumers, they will listen, and we all will benefit.

Eating low on the food chain — vegetables or vegetarian animals — is superior for our own health and the health of the earth.

A good example of eating lower on the food chain is the mussels we used to gather for bait. Mussels are now often plated instead of baited. They’re too slimy for me: I don’t think I’d eat a mussel for all the fish in the sea.

I just hope that isn’t an empty threat.

— Karen Telleen-Lawton’s column is a mélange of observations spanning sustainability from the environment to finance, economics and justice issues. She is a fee-only financial advisor (www.DecisivePath.com) and a freelance writer (www.CanyonVoices.com). Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >