For many lacto-ovo-vegetarians, the killing of animals is a problem. On moral grounds some are tending to change to eating fish - although the logic whereby the killing of fish is considered correct if the killing of land animals is not, escapes me.
They are encouraged in this change by the belief that the eating of fish is what has allowed the Japanese to live longer and that it is good for them. Wanting to be healthy themselves, they buy sea fish like cod, sea bass, red snapper and haddock. But these are not the ‘healthy’, omega-3-oil bearing fish that doctors are advising us to eat.
Fish stocks are declining. Cod used to be a cheap fish. It is presently £7.70 per kilogram, - over £2 more than farmed salmon. As prices reflect the laws of supply and demand, this can mean only one thing: there is a shortage of cod.
Cod is not the only fish that is scarce around Britain, so are haddock, wild salmon and monkfish. It is the same story worldwide. The one fish that is plentiful now is the North-Sea herring. This does contain omega-3 oils and, with the mackerel, is good for us. It is also the cheapest fish on the market, yet the British have almost stopped eating it.
The fish for which we have rejected herring is tuna from the Pacific and other exotic species: tiger prawns from India and sailfish from the Caribbean. This change reflects a growing and disturbing trend. With the North Sea almost fished out and now highly regulated, third-world fishermen, hungry for foreign currency, are plundering their own declining stocks in other unregulated oceans.
With fish becoming increasingly difficult to catch in quantity, modern fishermen and their equipment are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Cornish fishermen are using four-mile-long drift nets to catch tuna in the northern Atlantic. The nets are called ‘walls of death’ because of the numbers of dolphins and other unwanted fish they catch.
The Japanese fish for tuna with lines up to sixty-five miles long with thousands of baited hooks. In the North Sea, trawling does more damage than pollution.
Fish are very good at renewing themselves - if they are allowed to do so. But few will let them. Despite international agreements and quotas, in the northern seas, no one, with the possible exception of Iceland, is managing their fish stocks properly and the problem of over-fishing is spiraling out of control.
Fishermen’s methods have been likened to farming. But they are centuries behind: where the farmer sows and reaps, the fisherman, like the primitive hunter-gatherer, only reaps. He does not use his resources nearly as efficiently as the land farmer.
Without fish, we would be hard pressed in this island for sufficient high-quality food. We need fish, but we will only exacerbate the problem of over-fishing if we switch from meat to fish - from efficient animal farming to inefficient and wasteful fishing.