June 8, 2017
WHAT FISH ARE YOU EATING?
I was in one of my board meetings of an NGO tasked to address poverty and help sustain social enterprises. We had a presentation from another NGO involved with sustainable fishing communities. As the presentation progressed, it was mentioned how we can no longer find many different kinds of deep sea fish. Most of the fish we see in supermarkets, restaurants, and also those used by caterers are farmed fish (bangus, tilapia, cream dory, and the like). Why do we not see the other fish anymore? Apparently we have overfished our waters.
So industrial fishing companies are farming but many foodies know that farmed fish does not give you the Omega 3 and 6 fish is so famous for. Why even eat fish that is farmed if it does not have Omega 3 and 6? It is available. You can settle for canned tuna, bottled sardines, and tawilis. Everything else would be the usual bangus, tilapia, and dory.
This is why we also wish to promote Slow Fish. It is fish that comes from sustainable fishing communities, and ensure that fisherfolk get proper education about sustainability. It will not work if only one fisherman does it. It has to be the whole community. I am happy that Rare and its country partner is doing work with local government units (LGUs) to make our coastal communities productive but sustainable.
How can people not know what healthy fish is? How do we educate chefs and cooks to choose their fish? That is a job for consumers. Ask for the right kind of fish so the overfishing will also stop. Did you know that our fishing population has severely declined over the last few years because of overfishing? Also, most of the fish we now eat actually come from fish farms, and not from the wild anymore.
The LGUs that Rare.org works with need buyers and processors. This is why we help promote by eating the right fish from sustainable communities. With our extensive coastline, we are sure to find fish from Batanes to Sulu. For now, I have come across fish from Bantayan Island which are dried and are happily named “Papa Pusit” for dried squid and “Darling Danggit” for the dried small fish we used to only buy in the Cebu market. But there are more sustainable fish besides these and besides the numbered tuna we find in hotels. They are numbered because every big fish is traceable to the very community that is part of the sustainable program. And, we want to keep count and make sure these suppliers and fisher folk observe “no fishing” dates or periods as well as observing community rules and terms of reference for fishing.
Ask for wild-caught fish so these fisherfolk will continue to conserve the remaining species while making a living. Fishing is what they have been doing all their lives but because of “get rich quick” styles like cyanide and dynamite fishing, many of these fishermen are marginalized by those who have the power to conduct illegal fishing practices. Farming is for vegetables, not fish. So always know what fish you are eating. They should be sustainably-sourced. Avoid the “Fast fish” served in many restaurants. Most of them if not all have no Omega 3 and 6 because they grow up in pens and ponds, not in open waters. Avoid imported fish, too. They are also farmed and often are injected with dyes or fed food dyes to make them look orange (for salmon) when they are actually paler than wild salmon. For other fish, the yellow flesh is bleached to make them look white as this variety or species looks yellow when taken from the farm. Who wants yellow fish in their fish fillet? Since customers ask for white fish, processors bleach them or add chlorine to make them white.
Chefs and home cooks must demand for local fish that is caught in the wild. How do we know what to buy? First, buy local. Second, try other fish varieties and try to support other fish species, instead of the usual farmed kinds which are fresh water or brackish water kinds.
If you keep eating the same kind of farmed fish, investors will continue to grow fish unnaturally like chickens in coops or pens, beef from cows in feed lots, or pork in massive piggeries. Fishes are supposed to be in the wild ocean, not in the fish pond next door.
Ask for deep sea fish such as danggit or lamayo. Ask for lake fish like tawilis. You have to know your choices beyond the usual. Eat local fish, too. That way, we can keep the fisherfolk sustainable. Locavorism means sustainability.
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