Fish Tacos and Hypocrisy

Sometimes I just need to stand up on my soapbox. Today is one of those days. I know that here at The Adventure Couple we write about adventure and fun and living life and all but today I’m not writing about that.

I’m writing about fish tacos….and hypocrisy.

And I just may piss you off.

Sorry…….but not really.

Here is my statement.

If we want to save our ocean, we need to stop eating it.

So….today I spent the day putting together a private dive trip for a family. The first thing we had to do was figure out where in the world we could go to dive where we could see fish.

Twenty years ago that wasn’t difficult. Pick a place.

Now, not so.

So I worked hard all day and put the proposal together of a dwindling number of worldwide dive destinations. Satisfied with my work, I picked up a copy of PADI’s latest Sport Diver Magazine to relax a bit. Yes, even us NAUI Instructors flip through it sometimes.

An article caught my eye on an underwater National Park I was not familiar with, Cabo Pulmo National Park off of Baja. I read about how the Castro family (not of Fidel fame) had seen such diminishing returns on their family fishing business in the 80’s, they began to send their children off to find work elsewhere. One of their sons, went and learned to dive and came home and opened a dive shop. They then began asking fisherman not to fish in the area and worked and worked until finally in 1995 they helped create a 17,000 acre government backed underwater National Park.

Mean biomass over the past 10 years is now up over 1000%. Success! The family says their lives are better now and obviously so is the health of reef.

What a great article and a fantastic win/win.

Then I read the last paragraph of the third page of the article. The author, Melissa Gaskill wrote, “As I walked down the main dirt road toward a supper of fish tacos that first evening, Judith pulled up in her red pickup and handed me an executive summary of the brand-new strategic plan for tourism development in Cabo Pulmo.”

fishtaco

I was so angry I slammed the magazine closed. The entire article and success story just flew out of my head. All I could think of was that the author was there writing about a conservation success story saving fish, while she ate them.

We Should Be Leading the Way

I have long been on a soapbox on this topic. Those who are serious about ocean conservation should be leading the way in choosing alternatives to seafood. Eating sustainable fish? Well, that’s all well and good if you can find and really tell what is sustainable anymore. First you have to even correctly identify what it is you are actually eating. A huge number of fish are purposely mislabeled to begin with.  Check out the NY Times article on this topic.   A better choice? Choose something not from the big blue.

 Beyond Seafood Watch

It’s time to go beyond the Seafood Watch Program. I have stopped sending out their cards with my annual Christmas card. I have nothing against them and have always been a big supporter.  It’s just that it’s not enough anymore. We need to say NO to seafood. There are millions of people in this world who have no other choice than to get their protein from the sea but those of us living in first and most second world countries have an easy choice. We must make it.

greenpeace cod fishing images - Google Search

Divers should be at the forefront of this movement.

I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had with divers who lament the fishless reef while chowing down on their grouper sandwich, Some even apologize to me for eating off our ocean’s table. Apologize to me??? This is not about me, it’s about losing the greatest ecosystem on our planet, the very lungs of our Earth. It’s hypocrisy.

I therefore challenge divers to make the choice to eliminate seafood from their diet.

I also challenge dive resorts to do the same.

I recently offered that challenge to a dive resort manager who laughed and flat out told me he would go out of business if he took seafood off his menu.

When I charter a dive boat I request that no seafood be served. Obviously, I can’t do that at a land based resort unless I book the entire resort and I have done this in the past.

If there is a dive resort out there who has made the choice to FULLY support the ocean as well as the dive industry and eliminate seafood from their menu, I for one, would fully support this resort and promote it to the best of my ability.

I shall soon step off my box for today.

 Angry? You Bet

Am I angry? Yes. Do I sound totally righteous? Probably, but that’s not my goal. My goal is to make people understand that there IS a connection between what we eat and what’s NOT left on our reefs. And sometimes I need to get angry to do it.

Think about it. Diver or not a diver, we need to make some changes in our habits in order to effect the health of our Earth. Most people who have not spent time gazing at our beautiful coral reefs have not seen the changes over the past 10, 20, or 30 years. Young adults just getting into the sport of diving have such a shifted baseline that they can’t even imagine what a reef full of fish looks like.

 Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Unfortunately, the ocean is out of sight, out of mind. We can’t fully see what we’ve done to it. But dive a coral reef continuously for years upon years and you’ll be horrified at the change. I am.

Thankfully, there are families in places like Cabo Pulma who see and understand and are now protecting what is truly valuable in their part of the world. And because of them, their reefs are changing back slowly.

And unfortunately, there are authors like Melissa who have not yet made the connection between fish tacos and the health of our ocean.

Please think twice about eating what comes from our ocean.

Make the choice to make a change.

veggies aisle image - Google Search

 

Stepping down off my box…for now….

 

 

4 Responses to Fish Tacos and Hypocrisy

  1. admin May 10, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    Hello Adventure Insider,

    I appreciate your comment and thank you for your input.

    Agreed that the commercial fishing industry and bi-catch are the biggest problem in the decrease of fish stock worldwide. However, it’s driven by demand. And every person who eats seafood is part of that demand.

    As a matter of fact, Americans have the biggest demand in the world for shrimp, one of the worst offenders of bi-catch.

    If there was no demand for seafood or products containing them, there would be no commercial fishing industry.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t work to control the commercial fishing industry. It’s imperative we do so, but we also need to make changes at home in our own habits so that the fisherman in his panga in the Sea of Cortez can make a living. At the moment, many fishermen can’t anymore.

  2. Heather George May 9, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

    Hell yes, thanks for stepping up on that box for this one!!! I just want to say ditto, and ditto again, as a vegetarian (leaning toward vegan) diver your rant is right on. It is a touchy subject on dive trips however, and all I try to do is a tolerable amount of thoughtful education, as much as the audience will tolerate… 🙂
    On another subject, are you guys heading to TBEX in Toronto? Would like to meet up if so, we appear to have a lot in common. 🙂

    • admin May 10, 2013 at 11:02 am #

      When is it Heather? I currently don’t have a plan to but would be fun to meet up, Do you live in Toronto?

  3. Adventure Insider May 9, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    As a fellow diver and adventurer, I agree with you that serious conservation of ocean resources might be warranted, but stop eating fish tacos? Really?

    I am a sport diver myself as you are, and I can tell you from experience that the sport diving industry causes more damage to reefs and the ocean eco-systems than anyone will ever admit. But are you calling for a ban on diving?

    A better approach would be to use a little common sense. Most of the problems that are causing a reduction in fish problems have nothing to do with eating a few fish tacos.

    It has to do with the huge and largely unregulated commercial fishing operations throughout the world. Most of this type of fishing destroys more than it takes.
    If you truly want to make a difference, go after the big fishing operations in your blog post, not the people who eat a fish taco or grouper sandwich
    .
    The people that make their living off of fishing out of their small pangas in the Sea of Cortez are doing virtually no damage to the eco-system and I for one will continue to support them and their families
    .
    Go after the big fish and leave us fish taco eaters alone.

    Respectfully,

    Adventure Insider

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