Monday, November 9, 2009

This is Not a Good Idea

I was so upset when I read last week that Hawaii regulators approved the building of the nation's first tuna farm in waters off the Big Island. Why do we need a tuna farm? We don't. Or do we?

Billed as being an environmentally friendly open ocean farm, the farm is being built to satisfy the world's appetitie for bigeye tuna, a favorite source for sushi and sashimi. But why do we need a farm? Because bigeye tuna has been overfished in the wild. This is not a good thing.

Without top predators like tuna in the ocean, entire ocean ecosystems can and will change. A delicate balance exists where top predators feed on smaller fish, which in turn feed on plankton. Disrupt any piece of this puzzle and ecosystems collapse. Ecosystems that people depend on for their livelihoods. Ecosystems that depend on us for their lives. A world of destruction because of sushi and sashimi. The word sashimi reminds me of the word ashamed. We should be ashamed of what we are doing to the oceans so that people can eat sashimi.

Most people see fish farms as a great alternative to catching fish in the wild. Hmmm. Let's just overfish everything in the oceans and then create farms where we can raise fish. I have a better idea. Let's be proactive, instead of reactive, and not overfish in the first place. What a concept!

As the world population increases, so does the demand for fish. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the demand for fish will increase by 40% by 2030 and that fish farming is the only solution to feed this need. The demand for meat is just as great and we know what that has done to the planet. Fish farming is equally as destructive but most people aren't even aware of it.

The farm will consist of three large underwater cages. The tuna will be artifically hatched at a lab at the University of Hawaii in Hilo. This is unlike most tuna farms that simply capture immature tuna and fatten them up. Is one way really better than the other? The jury is still out on this.

After the fry (baby tuna) grow to a certain size, they will be taken to the one of the giant cages about three miles offshore where they will grow until they reach 100 pounds. These are really big fish that live a long time in the wild. They are not sexually mature until the age of four and this is why they have been overfished. Fisherman don't give them time to reproduce.

The fish farm will be unlike others around the world. Traditional fish farms consist of huge underwater cages where fish are packed so tightly that the cages become a huge pollution problem. The Hawaiian fish farm will be an 'oceansphere' which looks like this:

Designed by Hawaii Oceanic Technology, the oceansphere is said to be a revolution in open ocean aquaculture. Fish will not be as densely packed in the cages, thus they will not have the same problems that traditional fish farmers face namely diseases. Because the ocean is 1,300 feet deep at the location of the oceanspheres, the strong currents will sweep away fish waste and uneaten food. This will prevent the pollution of the ocean floor. Or will it? The jury is still out on this too.

So how much fish will be farmed in these oceanspheres? Would you believe 6,000 tons a year. That's a lot of fish! Diners in Hawaii, the U.S. mainland, Japan and other parts of Asia will be the
recipients of the fish.

But why even worry about a little fish farm in Hawaii? Because what happens in one area of the oceans affects all areas. It even affects the land masses that we live on. Critics of the fish farm are worried that the fish could escape and contaminate wild fish. Good point. What happens then? They are also worried about how the farm will obtain its fish and its feed. Another good point. Will they import them? Let's face it - this is just an industrial feed lot. It is just like factory farming for beef, pork, and chicken. It's the same thing only it's in the ocean.

Though the company has vowed to only purchase feed made from sustainably harvest fish (is there such a thing?) and has said it won't feed its fish antibiotics, how long can they maintain these promises? If factory farms didn't use antibiotics they would be out of business. It factory farms had to purchase feed from sustainable sources they would be out of business. I think it's only a matter of time before they uncross their fingers and start farming like the big guys do.

Mom and Dad will be on the Big Island one month from today and Mom plans to visit Hawaii Oceanic Technology. She is going to find out as much as she can about the oceansphere that will soon be in the waters off her favorite place on Earth. A place that will soon be turning out bigeye tuna by the ton to feed the needs of people who have no clue where their fish comes from and what it is doing to the planet. The planet we all live on. The planet we must share. The planet we are all responsible for. The only planet we have. If you must eat fish, please make sure you know where it came from, how it was caught, and it's impact on the environment. It's your right to eat fish so make it your responsibility to be informed.


Tweedles -- that's me... said...

Hi Stubby
I think those idiots should be ashamed too,
And it makes me very sad.
Anyone of us could have been born to be one of those Tuna. What kind of a life is that?
People just think about themselves and not thinking about our planet.
Yes---- those idiots in charge should be ashamed (your words)
Good for your mom for speaking out and checking it out.

THE PUGLET said...

I just heard a thing on NPR about what humans are doing to the poor fish. It made me sad.

Some of the ones they catch here in California (rock fish, orange roughy) can be more than a hundred years old.

A hundred years old! Imagine living 100 years... only to end up on a menu.

Pearl said...

This makes me sad, Stubby. :(

So many people only care about one thing... $$$.

Stubby said...

Hi Tweedles! You and I think alike, don't we? It makes me so sad and mad to think about all those tuna living horrible lives and then being eaten - yuk!

People must start thinking about others or else we will all be in trouble. The first step is educating them about the effects of their actions. Keep spreading the environmental word Tweedles!

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Puglet! It's so cool that you listen to NPR because you are in the know about things like this.

There are many fish that live long lives only to end up on menus. The same is true for other species of animals too and all must be saved.

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Pearly Poo! This makes me sad too but I have hope that people will wake up and start doing the right thing.

Many people only care about money and their greed makes me sick. Mom is always saying that people need to stop being so selfish and start thinking about others.

Stubby xoxo

Sandra y Coco said...

Hi Stubby! this is sad news... mom is grateful now that she can't eat fish or seafood (it is disgusting for her, she doesn't know why, but it must be allergies) She can only eat calamari prepared on a certain way (she does eat it maybe once every 2 years or so) and she only eats fish prepared on a certain way (cebiche, maybe once a year or less than that). anyway, she feels now that she is somehow contributing by NOT eating that.
Have a fun Sunday friend!

Stubby said...

Hi Coco! It is sad news but hopefully enough people will speak up and stop it.

I'm so glad that your mom can't really eat fish. She is helping the situation by not eating it because it is the demand for meat that drives people to take such drastic measures.

Stubby xoxo