Archive for March 23rd, 2010

My Dad, now 88 years old, grew up near Hull and Grimsby, on the east coast of England. There was a time when those towns vied for the title of greatest fishing port in the world. In those days, British trawlers fished for cod all the way north to the Arctic Circle. However, with the signing of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982, those northern waters became the territorial waters of Iceland, Norway and Russia. Countries were able to close their waters to foreign fleets to conserve fish stocks, although in Iceland’s case, not until fighting the “cod wars” with Britain. Britain lost, and only a small fraction of that industry remains. All that came after my father’s time though, after the War, after he moved to Canada. He grew up with the fishing industry close at hand. Now, late in life, when the appeal of other pleasures has faded, Dad still enjoys a nice piece of fish.

If you want to eat fish responsibly, there are several good sites to help you make the best possible choices. One good seafood guide can be found at the Blue Ocean Institute website. You’ll find good, clear information about a lot of potential seafood choices. You can even order a wallet-sized seafood guide to take with you when shopping or eating out.

Another excellent website belongs to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Seafood Watch provides visitors with insight into many fishing related issues and helps consumers make ethical seafood choices.

Greenpeace also maintains a powerful website that addresses seafood issues. Both the American and the Canadian sites offer consumers an evaluation of supermarket chain practices. In the Canadian listings, Loblaw’s stands in first place. That’s not to say they have the wholehearted endorsement of Greenpeace, who gives Loblaw’s a score of 2.4 out of 10 with a comment of “A step in the right direction”. That’s still way better than last place Metro, who score .1 out of 10 and are indicted with “Selling fish to death”.

Of Loblaw’s it is noted: Loblaw launched its sustainable seafood policy in May 2009. It has committed to sourcing all seafood from sustainable sources by 2013. The policy covers all canned, frozen, fresh seafood, including both private label products and those sourced from other companies, across all categories for both farmed and wild seafood.

Among criticisms: Many Redlist species (identified by Greenpeace as most at risk) are still on sale and action for removal is slow or undetermined.

I took the above photograph during a recent visit to a Loblaw’s Superstore. It informs customers that Loblaw’s works in partnership with the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) to provide more sustainable seafood choices. In the case right beneath the sign, however, swordfish steaks were prominently displayed. Swordfish? I didn’t have to come home to my computer to know that swordfish would be on the Greenpeace Redlist. Swordfish is among the big predator species that are at high risk from overfishing.

The point was moot for me anyway. I’ve given up eating all fish. My thinking is, does it really make any sense to think the oceans of the world will be able to supply billions of humans living far, far from the sea? Or is thinking we should be able to walk down to our local mid-continent market and buy fish from the ocean a form of mass madness? What does this fish have to do with my life in Ontario, whether it was sustainably-caught or not? And if you have any interest in trying to maintain a locavore diet, there is no way ocean fish is going to make your menu unless you live very close to the coast.

So no fish, calamari, shrimp, lobster, etc for me. Except…when I visit my Dad.

Read Full Post »