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Adding Insult to Injury

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
January 14, 1998


Don't you just hate it when one of your favorite restaurants changes management, and then immediately the food, and the service goes right down the toilet? This happened to me last week and I am still angry. My disillusionment came when we went to a local sushi restaurant that has an "all you can eat" special. Being a vegan, you can imagine how limited my choices are. How hard is it to wrap rice and vegetables in seaweed?

        About this time I bet you are wondering what a vegan was doing at a sushi bar, and more importantly what this has to do with the environment. My only justification is that, if we are going to strip the oceans of life shouldn't we at least dignify the sacrificed fish with treatment other then fast-food sushi.

        Having dinner with us that night were my parents, and when my mother asked if sushi chefs needed training, my partner said that the usual apprenticeship lasted about three years. I, on the other hand, being totally disgruntled said "more like three days." Later, when the women sitting next to my father asked the young chef, who was preparing her tuna roll how long he had trained, he replied "three days." McSushi anyone?

        Buried beneath the the grotesque antics surrounding the Clinton-Lewinsky tryst and the horrific slaying of Matthew Sheppard, was the fact that 1998 was the International Year of the Ocean. Sadly Americans cared very little for such a designation. This reality hit me as my mother was telling us, in between bites of an ocean roll, that just the other day she and my dad had gorged themselves at the Red Lobster's "all you can eat" shrimp extravaganza.

        Is it just me, or does it seem that the world's oceans have been an all you can eat buffet for way to long? Last year during an El Nino summer, Sea Lions were starving to death because, as the news media stated, "warmer water chased their food stocks away." I found it very odd that none of the talking heads mentioned that overfishing by commercial fleets could have played a part in the sea mammal starvation.

        Farther north, along the Washington coast, seals were being shot because they were eating to many fish, and threatening the commercial salmon take. Not content with killing off all the terrestrial predators, humans were now blaming the seals for below average takes. Once again, most media refused to do stories focusing on how dams have cut the salmon off from their breeding grounds inland.

        The Atlantic ocean was no safer for the species that call it home. Commercial salmon farming has caused a catastrophic decline of wild sea trout in northwest Scotland. Sea trout are coastal feeders and are exposed to a host of pollutants, from urban sewage to pesticides. Now, an infestation of sea lice spread by farm bred salmon released into the wild, is killing the local populations of sea trout. Fish and chips anyone?

        Along Canada's coastline a flatfish known as the barndoor skate is nearing extinction due to overfishing with the use of trawlers. Meanwhile, down in the south polar seas, dead whales are being found with spent weather balloons wrapped around their stomachs. Add to this, hotel development is destroying critical nesting beaches for endangered sea turtles around the world. So not only are we strip mining the oceans to satiate our gluttony, we are also making it impossible for sea creatures to survive until we get around to killing them.

        Whether we like it or not the worlds resources are finite. and if we kill off species faster than they can breed in the long run we will be reduced to the level of the inhabitants of Easter Island. Having rid their island of all life except humans, cannibalism became the norm, and soon the only thing remaining were some huge heads staring out to sea.

        So, is there any thing those of us in coastal North County can do to help reverse this trend towards emptying the ocean of everything except man made pollution? Yes, we could all become vegan, or decide to only eat sea food that you yourself have personally caught, which is basically the same thing.

        Now for those of you who can't live with out shrimp sauteed in butter or grilled shark, perhaps you can make a pledge to boycott all of those obscene all you can eat feeding frenzies. It is the least you can do, next to doing absolutely nothing. And if that is your choice, enjoy picking the flesh of your neighbor from your teeth. Humanity has been there before. Donner Party table for 6... billion.

Extinction anyone?

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