Goodbye Rohu, Hello Chilean Sea Bass: The Real Price of the Fish We Eat
Editor’s Note: The fish we get to eat at many high-end restaurants in India are no longer the fish we grew up with—bekti, pomfret, kingfish, rohu. In India, restaurants often served “fish curry” or “fish tandoori” without even specifying the kind of fish. You just knew it was a common local variety. But now you can do fish name-dropping. When Indigo in Mumbai revamped its menu recently, it proudly announced Chilean sea bass, yellow fin tuna and reef cod. Olive Bar and Kitchen serves Chilean sea bass and Norwegian salmon. But what does it mean, now that we are casting our nets ever further and ever wider to find those fish? Paul Greenberg has written about fish for the New York Times, National Geographic and other publications and is the author of the bestselling book Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, which will be out in India at the end of August as The Fish on Your Plate: Why we eat what we eat from the sea.
Why do we eat what we eat from the sea? The truth is that for the better part of human existence, we tended to put a particular fish on our plates because it happened to be the fish that was closest at hand. Even after centuries of global commerce, fish remained stubbornly local—they were eaten by the people who had caught them or by those who lived not too far from the people who had done the job.
But things are changing. And fast. Despite warnings about mercury and PCBs, the world nearly doubled its per person fish consumption from 20 pounds per year in the 1960s to 36 pounds in 2005. Of course Indians still have their local favourites—their pomfrets and seer fish, their chanos chanos and mandeli, fish that might be sampled during a seaside vacation or in the kitchen of an older matriarch. But look at the menus of some of India’s trendier restaurants and you will see fish starting to appear that reveal a much bigger story than India’s particular culinary trends.
Let’s take four of them—salmon, Chilean sea bass, tuna, and tilapia. They tell the tale of the very limits of the ocean and the alternatives to traditional fishing humanity is bent on exploiting.
Salmon—from the river to the sea
Salmon come first in the story of the ocean’s shift because they are the fish that has proven most sensitive to the changes humans have wrought. In their wild form, salmon are born in rivers, migrate to sea and then return to those same rivers to reproduce. The kind of rivers that salmon need, clear, cold, free-flowing, are becoming a rarity in the West. A 500-year river-damming spree in Europe and North America has led to a dramatic contraction of salmon-kind’s range to the point where salmon are now almost commercially extinct in the Atlantic ocean i.e. too few in number for humans to consider it worthwhile to fish them.
To read the full story, visit Firstpost.in.Tags: Chilean seabass, First Post, Fish, Paul Greenberg