The Lie of Sustainable Seafood

March 3, 2011

Essential reading for everyone who eats fish—a long and superb article from Erik Vance arguing for something I’ve long suspected: that much so-called “sustainable seafood” really isn’t.

In the end, despite our best intentions, much of what we’re told or assume about the provenance of the seafood we eat is essentially a fish story.

Here is one fish story regarding Kenny Belov, one of the few fish wholesalers passionate about sustainability:

Belov knows firsthand what it means to trust the wrong guy. One of the more popular dishes at [his restaurant] was ahi tuna poke. Belov bought the fish from a dealer in the Marshall Islands who was the height of green cachet, claiming he was trolling a line behind his boat and pulling the fish out one at a time. Excited to promote good actors in the South Pacific, Belov planned a trip to visit the supplier. Over the phone, a befuddled employee at first welcomed the idea but then seemed hesitant.
“ ‘I’ve got to go fishing with you. That’s the rule,’ ” Belov told him. “Well, when the plane ticket was about to be bought, the fisherman confessed, ‘I’ve been lying to you.’ ”

I’ve long said that one of the best reasons to go vegan is that it’s so difficult and expensive to reliably source high-welfare animal products, that’s it’s easier to just not deal with the matter and instead cut those foods from your diet. Vance’s article makes clear that there’s a similar situation regarding sustainable seafood. Yeah, you can get it, but it’s such a hassle and the industry’s so fraught with incompetence and deceit that it’s easiest to simply make other food choices. It’s a shame Vance doesn’t even raise this as an option.

Still, an altogether outstanding article: share it with the seafood eaters in your life. (Via Boing Boing.) Link.

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