You hear a lot of talk about ecology, climate change, the warming up of the planet, contamination, alternative energy sources, the danger of unshielded rays on the skin, dry spells, floods, the water crisis, the effect that genetically modified plants and animals may have on our health…but what about the fish?
Just for a starter: According to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the U.S. eats about 7.5 million tons of fishes per year, Japan eats 7.3 and…China consumes 50 million tons per year (and it accounts for 35% of the entire world’s fish production).
Although less talked about than climate change, disappearing ocean life is a crisis of explosive potential. We are eating up the fish. The sea creatures are excellent food and a great alternative to beef and other animal protein food stuffs. But in spite of publicity campaigns to encourage the eating of only sustainable fishes, reality is quite different.
China and Asian countries in general are traditional fish eaters. But the world’s population is booming ahead and so is the catch of fish. China has the world’s biggest fleet of an estimated 70,000 fishing boats and cares little about international rules on fishing. Chinese eat six and a half times more seafood than the U.S. and that means aggressive campaigns to continue and increase the catch—in Chinese and other countries fishing waters. But of course, it is far from the only violator of the rules.
How can the rapid extinction of fish be stopped? Not an easy question because it involves political and legal questions and the need to develop sustainable fishing practices.
A possible hint comes precisely from China, where according to the latest issue of Scientific American, about 70 percent of the country’s catch comes from freshwater fish farms. That would appear to be an alternative, yet a new concern arises: what is the effect of industrial contamination on fish in rivers, lakes and ponds? In the process of economic development—in China and elsewhere—middle classes are growing and consuming more and their appetites represent an enormous potential danger for the world’s fish population.
Industrialization, or if you prefer, capitalistic development sees nature as a provider for factories and markets: man takes from nature what he can to satisfy his needs and the profit motive. But that inevitably leads to depletion. In ancient Chinese society, as well as in most pre-industrial societies, man did not live separate from nature but rather as one of its integrated components. How can we continue to develop without destroying what nature has given us?