... we now enjoy Filet O' Fish from McDonalds. A decade from now, our kids may only enjoy McBilis?
omething fishy is going on. Years ago, we see decent sized fish being sold in the market. Now it seems they are growing smaller. Perhaps an evolution force taking place? I don't think so. The fact is, the average age of the fish we buy are reducing. We have consumed much of the adult and the queue has come for the babies to take their place in society,... human's society. Just recently I bought Pompret (Bawal Putih) from a commercialised supermarket and the first thought that came to mind was "they're pretty small little creatures aren't they? That's funny, I remembered them to be a lot bigger when my mom cooked them a quarter century ago".
Our fish count has dropped. We are consuming our seafood at a rate faster than their natural reproduction speed. The population of Malaysia has grown from 20 million 20 years ago to 27 million today. To feed these extra 7 million people, our fish catch has increased from 951,307 tonnes in 1990 to 1,390,000 tonnes now (#1). The fisheries industry has also advanced its techniques not only to increase output and sales, but also to sweep clean the seabed off its natural habitat. This is true particularly on the use of trawlers with smaller mesh leaving minimal chances for small fish to escape. According to Wikipedia, this method of fishing involves active pulling of trawls through the water behind one or more trawlers. Trawls are fishing nets that are dragged along the bottom of the sea or in midwater at a specified depth. Trawling is controversial because of its environmental impacts. Because bottom trawling involves towing heavy fishing gear over the seabed it can cause large scale destruction on the ocean bottom, including coral shattering and damage to habitats. And guess what, 51% of our fisherman in malaysia uses this! (#1).
So there you go. A desastrous industrial invention. We should be sad. We now enjoy the Filet O' Fish from McDonalds. A decade from now, our kids may only enjoy McBilis for the extinction of quality fish. In fact, I still remember that when I was 10 years old, the Fish and Chips were made of quality fillets from the likes of Kurau, Senangin and Jenahak. Today, Dory conquers the Fish and Chips market. To be exact, a particular type of Dory now floods the market due to its vast commercialisation. This Dory is known as the Cream Dory (Pangasius), from the catfish family. A far more inferior quality when compared to Kurau or Senangin. Cream Dory made it onto the National Fisheries Institute’s “Top Ten” list of the most consumed seafood in America. The Top 10 is based on tonnage of fish sold. According to the NFI of USA, this mild-flavored white-flesh fish is farmed in Asia and is being used increasingly in food service. It is finding its way onto restaurant menus and into stores as well.
We progressed from Baby Boomers, to Generation X, Generation Y, Generation Z and maybe, just maybe, we ought to call the next one "Generation Who Has Never Seen Fish Before"
So let us take stock of the situation. We have more mouth to feed. So we catch more. How do we catch more? We use destructive techniques as mentioned earlier. This depletes the fish population. Hence we experience deterioration, not only from the count, but also from the size and quality. Good fish becomes rare and are replaced with more common less quality fish. It's anti-progression really. If we don't stop, we will deprive the future generations from experiencing what good quality fish tastes like, and of course, that is if there are any fish left! We progressed from Baby Boomers, to Generation X, Generation Y, Generation Z and maybe, just maybe, we ought to call the next one "Generation Who Has Never Seen Fish Before" and let them roam in museums to see pictures of fish or even visit the blue plaque marking the first Fish and Chips shop in Britain, in Oldham, Greater Manchester (See photo by the side).
Something must be done. Australia for example imposes rulings whereby fish, crabs and prawns must be released back to the sea if they are less than a prescribed size. Non-compliance is heavily punished by way of monetary penalties as well as jail term. It worked perfectly. Go to Australia and experience their seafood. Fantastic! They are of decent size, decent species and sustainable industry practice ensures the fish population are maintained at healthy levels in tandem with the progression of human's fish demand not to the expense of the ocean kingdom.
A big hurrah to Malaysian Nature Society and World Wildlife Federation for coming up with Malaysia Sustainable Seafood Guide in May 2010. This guide opens the eyes of public to the risk of not having any seafood to eat if we continue to consume indiscriminately. It also highlights that Malaysians are the biggest consumers of seafood in Southeast Asia and that 90% of Malaysia's fish stock has declined due to unsustainable fishing practices. In addition, it introduces the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) logo that is used to identify fisheries that practice responsible fish catch by meeting MSC's strict environmental standards. If possible, ask for MSC certified fish from your supermarkets.
The guide is a fantastic piece of work that should be alongside your credit cards. It is produced in small pamphlets that can easily be kept in wallets and pockets. It's labelled as "S.O.S : Save Our Seafood". Why would you want to bring the guide everywhere? Well, the guide lists down the types of fish in 3 different categories: (1) Recommended, (2) Think Twice and (3) Avoid. This is just awesome. It gives us new hope. Now all we have to do is just be guided by it. If it's difficult to get hold of one of these pamphlets, visit www.saveourseafood.my. In any case, I will take the liberty of sharing some good tips as listed below:
Well managed sustainable stocks not overexploited
1. Lala Clams
4. Indian Mackerel
5. Spanish Mackerel
8. Mud Crab
At risk of becoming unsustainable. Only eat occasionally when 'Recommended' option not available
1. John's Snapper
2. Flower Crab
3. Red Snapper
4. Banana Prawn
5. Coral Grouper
7. Tiger Prawn
Unsustainable and overfished. Avoid at all cost
1. Silver Pompret
2. Black Prompret
7. Needle Cuttlefish
9. Coral Trout
I am a seafood lover and at the same time, I do care for the environment. I try my best to eat chicken and beef but being human, once in a while I do order fish at restaurants. I also face the problem of having kids who only eat fish and hates chicken and beef: that I will have to remedy,.. there is still time. I urge everyone to save our planet. Every little help, helps! Do care for our sea creatures. After all, if we don't look after them, we will lose a significant source of protein, iodin and essential oil such as Omega.
(#1 : Detailed and scientific/technical information was taken from an article "Cosuming Juveniles Dooms Fisheries" by Evangeline Majawat in NST Monday 6 September 2010)
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