Not to end your Friday with depressing news, but, totally about to end your Friday with depressing news. While most of DC is worried about the imminent threat of sequestration, continuing battles on Keystone XL, and whether or not we’ll ever make progress on climate change – a few reports came out this week that shifted the focus to food. Specifically – seafood.
While seafood can be some of the most delicious dining out there, it’s also one of the food categories where it’s most difficult to make safe and environmentally friendly choices. First, as we’ve known for a while, overfishing is a huge problem globally. Entire species and populations have been decimated by global demand for seafood, and often have trouble recovering from the losses incurred when massively over-exploited. Second, because of where most fish we eat fall in the food chain and because of their particular biology, they tend to accumulate toxins and pollutants easily (mercury being the primary example of this.)
Now, it seems, there are two other problems to deal with. First off, a study by Oceana hit the mass-media this week detailing the widespread fraud in the U.S. seafood industry. Too often, it seems, fish is swapped out somewhere in the supply chain and you might not be eating what you’re ordering. Not only is this just kind of creepy, it calls into question the transparency of the industry and suppliers in detailing where fish is coming from and how compliant they are with regulations designed to ensure safety and sustainability. It’s hard to make good choices when you don’t know what to believe
Meanwhile, just on the heels of a report that overfishing has caused a 96% reduction in Pacific bluefin tuna populations, studies are showing that those still around waters aren’t faring much better. The tuna – even those caught in California – till show the traces of radiation from the Fukushima disaster two years ago. It’s not surprising, given that bluefin tuna are at the top of the food chain and will therefore absorb poisoning from the fish they’re eating (my very oversimplified explanation of a phenomenon called bio-accumulation.) While the radiation levels are low-dose, it’s still a finding that should make us think. We were all raised with the knowledge that “you are what you eat.” But, it might be time to think a bit harder about where that “what we eat” is coming from and what we might be doing to it when we’re not paying attention.