Weekly Comment

There aren't plenty more fish in the sea

Related tags Food industry Tuna Fish

As a youngster I was brought up on a healthy diet of tuna fish
sandwiches and Disney - making my new year's resolution for 2007
the toughest yet. That's right, I'm giving up tuna and who knows,
even cod.

Why, you may ask, would someone take up such a seemingly pointless stand?

I mean, how bad can things really be for our aquatic friends in seas around the world, when its inhabitants can boast that, they "got no troubles, for life is the bubbles under the sea"?

The simple truth however is that there is a real problem under our seas. Unless consumer habits and more importantly the industry can adapt accordingly, fish stocks we have long taken for granted could become a rarer sight than a singing crab and an accompanying crustacean band.

For all their good intentions, New Year's resolutions are not enough in a matter of this magnitude.

With governments having to find a compromise between environmental concerns and the economic interests of fishermen, it is time that the food industry was made to take greater responsibility.

Heavier taxation on endangered stocks would encourage producers to turn to different species and ingredients in their product formulations, making meeting quotas more realistic.

After all, the biggest selling point of a large portion of fish products which contain cod, tuna and various other species, are that above all else they offer a cheap and nutritious food source.

If the issue of price was changed, consumers themselves would have to look elsewhere, and affecting the issue where it most needs to be addressed - demand.

In 2006, conservation organisations like the World Wildlife Fund, predicted that stocks within some of the Mediterranean oldest fishing grounds, which hold species like bluefin tuna and cod are almost near to being completely fished out.

Though this may hardly seem a surprising stance for an environmental group, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has added its concern to the debate.

In its proposals the scientific body suggests that fishing in deep sea areas should cutback to low levels, and in some cases -- like in the North Sea and the Iberian Peninsula -- halted unless sustainability in the region can be proved.

In the year ahead, the EU has outlined plans it hopes will reduce the burden on fish stocks by employing what it calls a maximum sustainable yield policy (MSY).

This will decide the maximum yield that can be caught by member states without affecting productive potential to a significant manner.

While government intervention on such a matter should be encouraged, the MSY is essentially nothing more than stricter quotas, which in their current form are already struggling to prevent fishery declines.

The quotas already in place need to be backed up by tougher action which must be embraced by or imposed on the food industry that relies on heavy fishing.

Taxing the use of the most declining species could be the key to processors and producers taking account for fishery.

Though taxes are always controversial, an additional tariff on products containing the most endangered fish stocks would negate forcing cuts governments can't simply bring themselves to make.

The solution is difficult of course, especially when the need for healthier diets is pushed onto us by both government and media. But for the sake of all our seas, a choice has to be made.

A weekly comment article runs across all online publications run by Decision News Media and targeting the food industry. Neil Merrett is a staff reporter for CEE-Foodindustry.com, and has written on a variety of issues for publications in both the UK and France.

If you would like to comment on this article, please e-mail Neil.Merrett'at'decisionnews.com

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