Troubled waters: the issues around eating Fish Juliet Morris
"Clean air, water, and a livable climate are inalienable human rights. And solving this crisis is not a question of politics, it is a question of our own survival.” - Leonardo DiCaprio, U.N. Messenger of Peace for the Climate, United Nations 2014.
For majority of us, eating fish is a choice, not a necessity. Many believe that the sole purpose of fish is for them to be eaten by us humans.
However, it seems that people are unaware that fish do have their place in the ecosystem, just like birds and the bees, which allows the planet to function as it should. Their place in the ecosystem is far more significant than their value as “food”, because around 50% of the oxygen we breathe is thanks to phytoplankton on the surface of oceans.
The Procedure in Removing the Ocean’s Fish
Perhaps people would reconsider eating fish if they really knew the reckless and destructive procedures used to retrieve fish from the sea.
Large-scale fishing methods are harmful to the ocean environment. Factory ships use huge nets (up to 60 miles long) with baited hooks every few feet to attract the fish. Bottom trawls are used which scoop up large quantities of the biological community leaving a scar in the ecosystem. Bottom trawling is used by commercial fishing vessels to capture flounder, cod and scallops, and is described by scientists as similar to deforestation, only on a larger scale. Elliot Norse, president of the Marine Conservation Biology Institute says, “Bottom trawling is possibly the largest human caused disturbance to the biosphere.” Due to commercial fishing, 90% of fish populations have been expelled in the past 50 years.
What are the health effects of eating fish?
Yes, fish flesh does contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are seemingly good for your heart. But there are far more healthy plant based sources of these acids, found in flax seeds, walnuts, tofu and pumpkin. These plant based alternatives also include more fibre, minerals and antioxidants.
Heavy metals in fish
Eating fish has increasingly become a risk to humans due to the dumping of industrial waste and agricultural chemicals into the oceans, where wild and farmed fish live. Toxic metals such as lead, arsenic and radioactive substances (such as strontium 90) can be found in fish, which are then consumed by humans leading to a variety of health defects, especially in children. So ask yourself, do you really want to be consuming radioactive toxic chemicals in your dinner?
The Food and Drug Administration have advised that pregnant women should not eat swordfish, mackerel and shark because of their high mercury concentration, which can lead to the child developing impaired learning capacity, vision and memory.
The Food and Drug Administration also advise people to stay away from larger fish, because they tend to eat smaller fish. Therefore, this generally means the concentration of toxic chemicals is much greater in these fish. Dr. Neal Barnard, director of Physicians Committee describes fish as “a mixture of fat and protein, seasoned with toxic chemicals.”
The ethical side of consuming fish
Fish are smart and each have their own unique personalities. Scientists have found that fish do feel pain in an identical way to mammals and birds. Sadly, more than 6 billion fish are killed per annum. More than 40% of these fish are raised in land farms which are very cramped and filthy, leading to infections and the manifestation of disease. Not only this, but billions of “non target” animals are caught in commercial fishing nets, or are dragged for hours on long-lines. These non target animals include: birds, seals, turtles and whales.
Whether the fish are raised on aqua farms or caught by giant nets or long lines in the ocean, eating them supports cruelty to animals.