food & grocery: More food news on the radio and questions about overfishing answered
Photo | From The Sylvia Earle Alliance website
Getting up early because the chickadees are chirping or a Carolina Wren has set up a racket (or because the sun rises at 5:57 a.m.), for a lot of us, the radio is good company in the early hours.
While starting coffee and putting strawberry jam on toast, I've noticed more and more food and agriculture stories making it on the air these days. These programs cover major issues of the day (like the plight of honeybees), and sometimes answer questions I haven't been able to figure out for myself. Like, which kinds of fish are not in danger of overfishing or extinction and are ok to eat?
I love that Michigan Radio has started putting NPR's TED Radio Hour on the air (Saturday at 6 a.m., Sunday at 9 p.m.). They call these talks "a journey through fascinating ideas: astonishing inventions, fresh approaches to old problems, new ways to think and create."
This morning, On Being a show "about the big questions at the center of human life, from the boldest new science of the human brain to the most ancient traditions of the human spirit" had an amazing interview with "Her Deepness," a high priestess and pioneer of the undersea, oceanographer Sylvia Earle.
In the interview, Earle talks about why she no longer eats fish. She says that, unlike chicken, which can be ready to harvest in under a year, or even beef at two years, fish and other marine life take a long time to mature.
Small herring, she says, take three years. Large ocean fish like tuna and Chilean sea bass only come to maturity at 10-14 years. And a fish like the popular deep water Orange Roughy can live more than 200 years. Although we've been told that fish is healthy and the supply is limitless, Earle says, "There's no great efficiency in feeding ourselves life from the sea that takes so long to grow."
She says if we do want to eat fish (although she doesn't even eat these species), "good choices are catfish, tilapia and variations on the theme of carp — creatures that eat plant life."
The destruction that Earle has seen of the coral reefs and of marine diversity, and the precipitous decline in numbers of fish are major reasons why she no longer eats fish. She also says that unlike land animals, you don't know where fish have lived, under what conditions or what contaminants they may have accumulated.
She says, "We have gone from one species after another, and have drawn them down 90 percent to 99 percent or even forced their extinction. Right now a number of great whale species is so depressed they might not recover. We may be the last to know them. This is a critical time, not just for big conspicuous species like grouper or whales, but also for smaller 'homebody' species."
As for what ordinary people can do, she says, "The first thing I suggest is get informed, get up to speed. Second, look in the mirror. You have some kind of talent. Is it music, numbers, are you a lawyer? Do you have a position in office, are you a mom, teacher, fisherman, communicator, artist? Use your power. In the next 10 years to 50 years, we may have lost the chance to save bluefin tuna. In the 70s we started to consume them on a scale previously unknown. We've drawn down the large fish by 80-90 percent. And only 10 percent of the sharks are all that remain."
Earle says that human beings depend on the sea for many things that we don't understand yet. Still, she remains hopeful — she says protected areas have shown a surprising resilience and ability to return to ecological vibrance. And she believes humans have sentience beyond that of bacteria that consume everything in their environment and eventually die off because of it.