Friday, April 6, 2012

The Last Supper?

Going, going gone? Plates of fish in Las Nieves market. 

Like every Easter, this year Colombians packed fish markets and fish restaurants.

However, the great bounty of delicious, inexpensive fish hides the fact that many Colombian fish species are being overfished, and some researchers say that fisheries off of Colombia's Pacific coast are facing collapse. One study predicts severe shortages by the year 2030.

Marine ecology experts recommend buying fish which are caught by hook-and-line, rather than nets, particularly trawling, in which a net is dragged thru the ocean, catching and killing everything in its path. Sometimes, trawling kills 14 kgs of sealife for each kilo of edible fish.

Costa Rican-flagged ships have also been discovered in Colombian waters massacring sharks for their fins, which are sold to the Chinese to make soup. In almost all circumstances, it's a mistake hunt top predators.

It's also better to consume larger fish, which have had time to grow up and reproduce.

Enjoying Easter lunch. 
One United Nations study found that 80% of the world's fish species are being overfished. In 2009, Colombia received plaudits from the World Wildlife Fund for adopting practices to limit the take. However, the WWF observed that such measures are useless unless all the countries in the region adopt them.

Fish, the last major human food still captured in the wild, are particularly hard to manage because of what's called 'the tragedy of the commons.' Most of the world's oceans belong to no country, and fish and other species move from region to region. As a result, corporations and countries have strong incentives to overfish, because they reason, correctly, that if they do not, somebody else will.
Bagging fish in Palo Quemao Market. 

But that situation is a formula for collapsing all of the world's fish populations, leaving no fish for anybody.

And that, tragically, is what appears to be happening.

Here's a graphic showing which kinds of fish are most sustainable.

Find more information on Mar Viva's website.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Dried, salted fish for sale. 

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