Sushi lovers, even fans of a plain old tuna sandwich: Prepare to be put off your feed.
“Fishing with modern technology is the most destructive activity on Earth,” writes British journalist Clover. Imagine, he instructs, a drag line tied between two bulldozers and dragged across the veldt. Impala, wildebeest, rhinos and lions fall. Because there is no market for much of the catch, a vast pile of corpses and wrecked habitat is left behind. So it is with the world’s oceans, a vast killing field filled with technologically sophisticated deep-ocean fleets from the First World devastating the waters of the Third. (On that score, Clover writes, there’s no mystery to the great concentration of fishing boats off the coast of Somalia: It has no government and can’t complain.) Global fisheries are badly overexploited, even though official statistics from international agencies and national governments lie about the real numbers so their fishing activities will not be curtailed. Moreover, Clover reports, “the global fishing fleet is estimated to be two and a half times greater than needed to catch what the ocean can sustainably produce.” The illegalities, improprieties and bureaucratic screens surrounding the world of industrial fishing are astonishing, to say nothing of the denial that anything is wrong. Clover is merciless in reporting them even as he, a dedicated pursuer of trout, allows that commercial fishing is not the only bad guy: Amazingly, especially in the U.S., everyone wants to be a sport angler, so that the Gulf of Mexico is now practically bereft of red snapper, even as the rest of the oceans are without their teeming shoals—and even as the population of fish-hungry humans swells.
Want to feel less guilty about all the destruction? Have a fish sandwich at McDonald’s—and maybe club a baby harp seal on the way. For the reasons, read Clover’s sobering book, and adjust diet accordingly.