Dissenting on eating less fish: sustainable as blah-blah?

On August 10, 2010 fair-fish had shown delight* at a paper published by the Pew Foundation and the Pew led coalition Ocean2012 in which reducing the fish consumption per capita is an issue.

* http://www.fair-fish.ch/blog/archive/2010/08/10/eat-less-fish-fair-fish-finds-followers.html

On August 23, 2010 fair-fish got a most surprising EMail from the two organizations:

 
In response to your application to join OCEAN2012 I regret to inform you that the Steering Group has decided to reject your application.
OCEAN2012 focuses on the reform of the CFP with a strong emphasis on policy objectives, and we feel that the fair-fish association can better pursue its objectives on fish consumption and animal welfare outside this coalition.
Kind regards,
Rozan Consten
Associate, European Marine Programme, The Pew Environment Group,
Assistant Coordinator, www.ocean2012.eu
 
Is reducing fish consumption really an issue for Ocean2012? To which degree?
Will decent requests change an EU Fishery Policy? A policy which still in 2010 is aiming at securing high fish consumption:


Feedback from EU Commissioner Maria Damanaki
I would agree with your idea that selling fish at a higher price is attractive. I am, however, a firm believer of the benefits of regular consumption as fish – fish which meets all of the extensive food safety requirements – has shown great benefits for health. Therefore, I cannot agree with the objective of reducing fish consumption to one or two meals per month.
Among the priorities I have set for my term in office are more sustainable fishing and aquaculture together with greater social cohesion for the communities of fishing and aquaculture dependent areas. With proper conservation and optimum market planning, fishing less to gain more can become a reality, but a consumer campaign to reduce fish consumption is not the way to go to achieve this.
The growth of sustainable aquaculture can also be part of the solution here. It is my clear aim to give the necessary political impetus to the sustainable development of aquaculture here in the EU in the context of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

Reply: Based on the Green Paper published by the Commission in April 2009, we sure agree upon the fact that Europe’s Common Fisheries Policy has been disatrous. An effective reform of this policy will have to observe the cardinal limiting factor which is the amount of fish available in the long run, and not the increasing amount of fish Europeans would like to gulp.
Even sustainable fishing cannot create more fish than nature provides. Aquaculture on the other hand is sustainable at best if fully renouncing at fish meal and fish oil. Up to present, we did not read something like that in the Commission’s statements with regard to the CFP reform. It rather looks as if the Commission was determined to continue a campaign that will deprive the consumers from fish at all not too far from now.
If fish is really so crucial for human health, we should not eat it all away without leaving anything for future generations. The most important benefit of fish according to medical scientists is its high content in Omega 3 which is brought into the marine food chain by the microalga Ulkenia. Oil based on Ulkenia has been accredited by the Commission and accordant products are at the maket. Why should we then exterminate fish when we can get what we need more directly?


Feedback of the secretary of another NGO coalition, member of Ocean2012
Many groups share similar concerns about the volumes of poor quality fish products consumed in industrialised countries, including the EU. It will still be a long way until industrialised countries consumers accept willfully to decrease their consumption of this kind of cheap products (farmed panga or salmon, canned tuna), particularly in a situation of economic crisis. We share your concerns, and if you look also at the Ocean2012 submission to the Green Paper on the reform of the CFP, the section on trade highlights precisely those issues. This Ocean2012's position questions the fairness of prices to the producers (whether in the South or in Europe); the quantities and qualities of the products (including nutritional, social and environmental conditions under which this fish is produced); and the need for promoting quality over quantity. These issues were nicely illustrated by the report you refer to.


Reply:
I agree that various organizations are advising consumers to eat less fish; but I would be glad to know one giving an exact measure. Just «less» will not move very much as everybody thinks by himself being already quite modest personally...
Sometimes I feel as if most NGOs are reluctant about indicating a precise reduction goal because they fear to displease their donors…

We were lacking precise indications also in OCEAN2012s position to CFP reform.
 
Feedback from a veterinary scientist having published on fish welfare and now working for the aquaculture industry:
In my understanding fair-fish is an organisation dealing with fish welfare, not an eco-warrior organisation.
A
quaculture and good fisheries management are the answers. I find that your recommendation to reduce fish consumption is completely outside your area of knowledge. There are countless scientific, peer reviewed papers in very highly regarded journals which show that fish consumption is a very important part of healthy human nutrition.  A fish intake of one or 2 meals per month is one quarter of what is recommended by health experts in WHO, USA and EU.  I think they know a little bit more than you. 
 
Reply: Fish welfare is still in the center of our work. Eating less fish can also be a contribution to it, by the way.

I fully understand and share your public health concern. I will share it even more when the seas will be depleted because everybody who could afford wanted to have the 2 to 3 fish meals a week so strongly advocated by doctors and the seafood branch…

If Omega 3 is a core factor and if the daily intake recommended is that high, we should do everything to source it elsewhere in order to prevent fish stocks from being literally eaten all up.

The penny has dropped when I got aware where fish are sourcing Omega 3 from.

So why don't we source from the micro-algae Ulkenia as well? As a matter of fact, capsules on Ulkenia basis are available.

What I experience is an increasing and brute «eat more seafood» campaign with the aid of doctors (at first cardiologists, now more and more paediatricians and general practitioners). It is hard to understand how intellectually trained people (who reached this point mostly thanks to public investments) can advocate a diet which would come to its biological end within a few decades if everybody follows their advice.

I experienced also that it is not possible to discuss with these people on a reasonable level. They hide behind their studies without even having a look to what's going on there where the fish comes from.


A professor of marine biology, active member of a traditional fisher family in Alaska:
Please take me off your mailing list.  I think your one-size-fits-all approach is ill-conceived and irresponsible.
Reply: Your address is taken off our mailing list. Unfortunately I did not grasp the reason of your criticism. I would be glad to learn more about YOUR approach.
 
My approach is looking at each fishery as an independent system, and evaluating your eating choices based on: 1. sustainability of the fishery in question; 2. health issues; 3. dietary concerns; 4. personal preference.

For example, most reputable doctors recommend that people consume fish twice weekly for good heart health.  Our salmon in Alaska is high in omega-3 fatty acids, and is managed sustainably.  My family consumes salmon that we harvest ourselves as a primary protein in our diets.  Because I am not making my food choices in a supermarket, but rather basing my food decisions on my Native heritage and my locale and the proximity to the food source, your approach simply doesn't work for me. 
 
Reply: As to evaluation of each fishery, I fully agree. This is one reason for my sceptic view on MSC which in its origin is an industrial standard that still has not managed to integrate artisanal fisheries.
This said, the issue raised by fair-fish in the emailing you did not like is different as it has to do with the total amount of fish available. Even if we agree - as I guess - that artisanal, locally based fisheries are exploiting the resources with much more respect, it can also be true that they contribute to depletion of stocks like e.g. in Senegal were most of the seafood exports are based on artisanal fishery. Anyway do we have to find a way to limit the total amount of the world catch and to distribute quota and fish in a fair manner.

I rather disagree when it comes to medical arguments. (…)
 
A professor of the Hull International Fisheries Institute:
Remove me from your email list.  I do not want to be associated with any extreme group that does not consider the wider economic implications of their actions.

Reply: Okay, removed.

BTW, we're no extremits at all, no animal lib or similar. We just consider the wider economic implications of what has been going on for some decades – and of what will happen when all fish are eaten to the industry and to millions of people making there living on fish. We still believe moderating consumption now is far less extremist than to just let it flow as it flows today. To be frank, we would have expected a Hull professor seeing this far, too.


I find your response to my email OBJECTIONABLE. I am currently working in southeast Asia where fish is the only protein most people eat. To take one fish per week from them will lead to starvation - think again about your answer.  I am a realist who believes in alternative livelihood strategies not Draconian measures.
DO NOT ANSWER THIS EMAIL AS I HAVE BLOCKED YOUR SYSTEM.

Remark: We did not say that we would take away fish from those people, did we?
 
 
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