Mmm… Food


Week 7: The End of the Line: How Overfishing is Changing the World and What we Eat by Charles Clover
February 19, 2009, 5:23 pm
Filed under: Books, Random Facts

endfotheline1The End of the Line: How Overfishing Is Changing the World and What We Eat By: Charles Clover 

Excellently researched and written book about, well about what the subtitle declares it is about.  The amount of information packed into this book is a little overwhelming, but the way it is all crafted together in an incredibly persuasive argument here is something to be applauded.  It has been by newspaper like The Independent which calls this book “The maritime equivalent of Silent Spring“.  If you don’t know Silent Spring, originally published in 1964 it was the book that helped spur the public’s interest and awareness in environmental issues, specifically that DDT pollution was wreaking incredible havoc on the world.  But even if you question any of the rebuffs of the information being presented here as being taken out of context, or missing the bigger point even if you could disprove 50% of his information (and I doubt you could) this book is giant slap in the face. 

Now.. as I’ve already discussed this book with friends who accuse me of having a prior disposition to want to find reasons to not eat fish (I have never been a fish lover.  As a child my mom tried to pass of fish to me as “white steak”, my response? “This white steak tastes a lot like fish!”) I want to try to come out and defend myself.  I want to like fish.  I’ve heard a lot of good things about fish as a health food, and it doesn’t (at least the wild stuff)  have any of the inhumane treatment problems that a lot of cattle, swine and chicken have nowadays, and there’s a ton of different varieties.  There seem to be so many positives.  I just can’t get used to the taste.  I need to experiment more.  Try more things.  Try more seasoning, but I want to try those new things with a slightly different take which is wildly influenced by my reading of this book. 

The abuse of the worlds oceans and taking fish out at an alarming rate have reduced fish populations and he talks more about breeding populations than seems possible.  In some areas the fish population has been reduced by 50%, 75%, 90%.   Newfoundland used to be a hotbed for cod.  Now there is none to be had.  The fishing industry for cod there is dead!  There are countless examples in the book.  All shocking.  There seems to be so much greed on the part of fisherman, taking more and more from less and less.  Using technology to locate what’s left and taking it too.  There is also greed in part on the consumer, not caring to know or think about where the fish came from.  How it was caught, what else died so that we could eat it and if it was old enough to have reproduced or removed from an already depleted ecosystem.  And many poor countries in Africa especially whose governments sell fishing rights to other countries (such as Spain) because they are so poor and they need the money, yet their own citizen who then fish for sustenance on their own shores go hungry as all the fish is taken up by large boats and shipped off to more wealthy countries. 

Without reading the book and having all the convincing arguments put in your brain that way, check this out.  Fishbase.org which is an all around smorgasbord of information on fish, links to 36 different organization that all publish lists for consumers.  While there are variations on each site, and each one includes separate sets of factors and updates their lists independently they all say similar things.  There are fish that can be eaten in good conscious and there are fish that you shouldn’t be eating.  Check one of them out.  Charles Clover seems to think the WWF (which has been an advocate for animals for a very long time) publishes one of the best lists.    I printed it for our fridge.  So that I can work on trying new fish, but making sure we are trying something that we can feel good about.  As the organic market which includes vegetables, eggs, milk, and meat moves off land and into the ocean and begins to apply more and more to fish and seafood I agree with the author that it is coming.

This was a very interesting read and I would definitely recommend it to anyone with an interest in knowing more about the fishing industry.  It was an eye-opener on more than one occasion, and has definitely influenced how I will think about fish in the future.

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