Fish Pharming

August 16, 2010

Torah Kachur

Science in Seconds On Location:  Torah in Hong Kong S.A.R, China


Hong Kong has some amazing food:  Shark Fin Soup, chicken feet, Cyanide marinated Grouper and Tetracycline infused Abalone.


Sound delicious?


And of course there is Potassium Nitrate Sea Bass.....tantalizing.


Welcome to Fish Pharming.  The massive demand of Hong Kong restaurants for fresh fish and the tiny coastline of this city-state has spurred people throughout Indonesia and the Phillipines to fish with cyanide and explosives.  Not exactly sustainable practice.




Cyanide poisons the fish by preventing oxidative phosphorylation - a process used to generate the cellular energy for life.  It can kill in high doses but at low doses sprayed at fish by divers, it stuns them just enough so that they swim away and hide in coral reefs.  Then, the divers start hacking away at the precious coral reefs to trap the fish and take it to shore - alive and ready to hit the tables of Hong Kong.  Don't worry - these cyanide-poisoned fish are first 'rinsed' for 10-14 days before being sold to restaurants - and, if not - consider it a special sauce.


If cyanide-poisoning wasn't enough to make you hesitate before ordering that Braised Garoupa with Ginger and Spring Onion, how about some antibiotic garnish?  The cyanide-treated fish have an incredibly high death rate (ummm....duh!) and so the 'fisherman' are trying to keep them alive with injected antibiotic.  The use of sub-therapeutic antibiotics in livestock is debatable when its highly controlled and monitored by agencies such as the FDA, the rampant trial-and-error use of injected antibiotics by untrained and uneducated third world fisherman should at least raise an eyebrow.  (Note:  tetracycline does not increase the overall flavour of the fish - just in case all you care about is your tastebuds).


But, for the really lazy, why would you bother diving down to chase the fish, then hack some coral reefs and then inject them full of stuff - seems like a lot of work.  Why not just blow the sh*t out of them.  Another commonly applied technique for 'fishing' is bombing the reefs, this 'blast-fishing' is also widely used through South East Asia as well as in Africa.


Maybe it's time to start caring about the tuna, and not just the dolphin-free kind.  The ocean isn't our playground or untapped resource or our dumping grounds - it is two thirds of the Earth and will affect us more than we understand.  Plus, I like fish and I'd really like to avoid cyanide poisoning in my Nobu sushi.



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