Thursday, June 5, 2008

It's Neither Chilean. Nor Sea Bass.

I have been alerted to the plight of the Patagonian Toothfish. It is sold under the name Chilean Sea Bass but it is not bass- or found in Chili. Apparently the first guy to import them didn't like the look or name of the fish so he made up a new one. The fish is threatened with extinction and over 80% of the them are illegally caught. In the Antarctic there are Toothfish pirates hiding them under crayfish for illegal import. In the 80's and 90's the fish became a high-end favorite. Rich folk gobbled them down. But, once the word got out the "sea bass" were illegally and extremely over fished, Whole Foods and Wal-Mart stopped selling the fish. A sea bass backlash occurred. Even Mr. Environment himself, Al Gore, was caught scarfing down the fish at his daughters wedding rehearsal dinner. It wasn't until 2006 that the Marine Stewardship Council certified 4000 tonnes of it had been legally caught that the stores began to sell it again. Still, it is not bass, nor Chilean. Don't be fooled. The pirates have returned and the Toothfish is still a threatened creature. After a three week chase, a 40 person Uruguayan crew was recently caught in Australian waters (pictured below) with 40 tonnes of fish, worth over two million on the black market. Ever heard of "Seafood Awareness?" From 1999 to 2004, the Seafood Choices Alliance has invested $37 million in seafood consumer awareness campaigns, partially out of exasperation with the government's failure to regulate fisheries or seafood imports. I guess it doesn't matter- people will be eating fish no matter what- until the end of time. "We did not co-evolve with fish they way we co-evolved with mammals," says Daniel Pauly at the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre. "Therefore, we cannot wrap our minds around fish or our hearts around them either." That reminds me of something Philip K Dick wrote in VALIS: "Fish Do Not Ride Bicycles."

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