The Fish of the Sea

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Genesis 1:28

So how’s that dominion thing working out for you?

There’s nothing like a perch at the top of the food chain.
We’ve got the handy opposable thumbs and complex forebrains, and when it comes to a fish dinner, we’ve made the most of them. We’ve developed a taste for predators—tuna, salmon, swordfish, cod—all the high-protein, high-fat fish that are enriched by their own diets of feeder fish.

The traditional food chain concept taught us that the sun makes plankton that’s eaten by the crustaceans that are eaten by small forager fish; those are eaten by small predator fish, which in turn are eaten by larger predators and mammals.

We’ve since learned that the food chain concept is too simplistic. The oceans are full of picky herbivores, cross-over omnivores, and predators that double as prey. The new terminology is ‘food web,’ a more holistic approach that explains the complex interconnectedness of ocean species. Mess with one marine relationship and you’re messing with them all, plus a whole host of habitats and ecosystems. But you know us and our dominion—of course we’ve been messing.

Here’s what our taste for striped bass and red snapper has done:
The large predator fish we’re so fond of are in steep decline from overfishing. Popular species like cod, swordfish, and tuna have dropped by 90% in the past 50 years, their very existence threatened with extinction. With their natural predators disappearing, wild forage fish populations have exploded, and with too many foragers gobbling up the krill, there’s nothing to feed on the plankton. Now we’re seeing vast and unseasonable plankton ‘blooms’ turning swaths of the oceans into a plant-laden green soup that sucks out all the oxygen and wreaks havoc on ecosystems.

Hang on to those fish forks.
The best way to rebalance the oceans is to eat around the food web—fewer of the top predators and more from the burgeoning population of forager fish like sardines, herring, and anchovies.
Eat prey, not predators.

Seafood Watch at the Monterey Bay Aquarium has recommendations and recipes for ocean-friendly fish, available online and as a mobile app.


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One Response to The Fish of the Sea

  1. Lora says:

    Bravo! Thanks for this post. I would like to add the 100 million sharks killed every year for fin soup. Removing the predators from the ocean = sick oceans.

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