DEAR READERS: Think twice before ordering lobster for dinner. According to Seafood Watch, ropes used to fish for lobsters and other seafoods often entangle critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, as well as other aquatic mammals. Ropeless fishing gear with a remote-controlled float, which is now used in Australia, should be adopted posthaste worldwide.
The New York Times reports that, having depleted its own coastal waters, China has built the world's largest fleet of deep-water fishing ships. The vessels travel to waters around the world, from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean. The Chinese fleet uses a system of "motherships" in which one vast ship services many smaller ones, allowing them to transfer tons of cargo without returning to port.
International conservation group Oceana tallied nearly 300 Chinese ships working near the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador in 2020. "Our sea can't handle this pressure anymore," says Alberto Andrade, a fisher from the Galapagos, in the Times story. "The industrial fleets are razing the stocks."
Mary Finelli, founder and director of advocacy group FishFeel.org, told me that people shouldn't lay all the blame for China's abhorrent fishing practices on China itself. Much of China's catch, as well as the fish it imports, are used as feed for farmed fish, shrimp and other animals. Many of those animals are then exported as food to the U.S., Europe and Japan.
"In Asia," according to a writeup on maritime-executive.com, "particularly in China and Vietnam, aquaculture has expanded rapidly and the region now accounts for almost 90% of global output. In China, output tripled between 1998 and 2020 to represent 60% of the global total. According to a 2017 study by the University of British Columbia, many countries, including the U.S. and Norway, use feed-grade fish directly as feed. But the practice increased significantly in Asia between the 1990s and 2010, with feed-grade fish coming to account for a high percentage of landed catches." (Read the article at maritime-executive.com/editorials/china-works-to-get-wild-caught-fish-out-of-its-aquaculture-feed.)
And newsecuritybeat.org reports that "annually, about 19 million tons of wild fish are processed globally into fishmeal and fish oil. Aquaculture currently uses 75% of global fish oil supplies." (Read the article at newsecuritybeat.org/2021/07/aquaculture-fish-feed-china-u-s-break-ocean-connection.)
Industrial shrimp farming in Southeast Asia has had a devastating ecological impact, decimating coastal mangrove ecosystems, depleting and polluting sea life dependent on these marine forests and disenfranchising and impoverishing local fishing communities in the process. Shrimp are fed high-protein seafoods, contributing to the global overfishing crisis. The wholesale use of antibiotics to boost productivity and prevent disease has resulted in bacterial antibiotic resistance. Most shrimp is profitably exported to Europe and the U.S., with discarded parts going into pet foods. Another driver of this ecocidal industry is the medical, surgical and cosmetic value of chitosan -- which has antioxidant, antifungal, pesticidal and anti-inflammatory properties -- extracted from shrimp shells. Chitosan had a market value of $6.8 billion in 2019.
The octopus is one of the most intelligent invertebrates on our planet, and should not be farmed for food for a number of reasons. Per deeperblue.com, "A coalition of 97 animal welfare organizations and scientists is opposing the establishment of farms to raise octopus and other cephalopods for food," which would cause stress and extreme environmental deprivation. (Read the article at deeperblue.com/activists-oppose-octopus-farms.)
Farmed salmon in Scotland, a major producer, are overcrowded, stressed and teeming with sea lice, for which they are given hazardous insecticidal treatments, which in turn harm the wild fish in surrounding waters. For some excellent information, go to ecowatch.com/marine-life-ocean-threats.
My advice to all concerned consumers: Salmon and other seafoods may have health benefits, but a better way to get those fatty-acid nutrients is from the original source -- marine algae, on sale in health stores. Avoid "luxury" seafoods such as lobsters, octopus and farmed shrimp.
The less we take and consume from the oceans, the better it will be for this vital ecosystem and for the planet's health at large.
THOUSANDS OF PET CATS INFECTED WITH COVID-19
Researchers found that 3.2% of samples taken from cats at routine checkups in the U.K. between April 2020 and February 2022 were positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. The study, still awaiting peer review, suggests that at least 352,000 cats in the U.K. have been infected with the virus, which "could have implications for feline health," says co-author Grace Tyson. (Full story: The Telegraph, Nov. 21)
This is additional clear evidence that keeping owned cats indoors is of critical importance to prevent the spread of this and other diseases to animals outdoors.
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