Save the Oceans, Eat Like a Pig


An article I wrote about fishmeal and the prospects for turning the industry around is published in the Tyee today. About 30 milliion tonnes--more than one third of all marine fish caught--is ground into fishmeal annually. About two million tons were ground into meal in 1950. Fishmeal is fed to an ever-increasing number of farmed fish, pigs, and chickens. It helps pigs and chicken (AND herbivorous fish) grow faster than their historical grain-based diets.

But the fishmeal industry also turns into powder fish perfectly edible by humans. The article explores a new initiative in Peru, whose anchovies have historically supplied 20-50% of the world's fishmeal. Last year, Dr. Patricia Majluf teamed up with the Peru's top chef to make the Peruvian anchovy attractive to the Peruvian tastebuds. Now, anchovies are being eaten by Peruvians, rather than pigs and fish in China, fewer are being harvested, and the average anchovy is making ten times more revenue for the Peruvian economy. Thus, the article's main thrust: that saving the oceans might start with eating like a pig!


Amount of marine fish reduced to fishmeal (in dark grey) from 1950-2002--
graph courtesy of Drs. Alder, Pauly, and Watson at the Sea Around Us Project


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It may be difficult for people who experience anchovies as little nasty bits on pizza to conceive of these fish as a comfort food, but this is what they can be once one gets rid of the notion that these fish are extraordinary. Anchovies are small fish, that is true, but in everything else they are like big fish--they may even taste better. I experienced that for myself rather late in life. Last November in Peru I partook in a meal in an upscale Japanese restaurant consisting only of anchovy dishes. This was a trial run during the Anchovy Week, launched by my friend Patricia (and discussed here), to popularize anchovies as a human food rather than fishmeal. They were simply delicious but we knew that from the Spaniards and the Italians who have for centuries consumed anchovies fresh, grilled, or otherwise. It's only in the U.S.and Canada that anchovies are perceived to be anything different from the wholesome fish that they are.

If I have to think about my favourite fish ever ..I would say 100% they are surely anchovies and sardines. Unfortunately I come from a country (Italy) in which those two species of fish have been overexploited during the past decades...and now we are getting to the point that we might not have the possibility to eat them anymore if the fisheries take them all!!!

Right now I'm completing my Masters at the Fisheries Centre of UBC , Vancouver and I was surprised by going to the fish market and not see any of those fish that we use to eat a lot in Mediterranean countries.

I keep looking for them ...but until now I haven't had any luck!!

Well, my conclusion: " If you can find them them ...they are delicious!!"

On top of the pizza, grilled, as a sauce for pasta...or on top of grilled red peppers ...mmm... try them and let me know!!

all these years of plucking the achovies off my pizza I don't think i've ever really tried eating them. maybe i will start. just to do my part for the oceans.

If there is one thing I have come to appreciate in life, it is the prowess in the Japanese refinement of exisitng goods to appeal to more expensive tastes. In a material sense, think Sony or Lexus. The same holds true in the kitchen. With any hope, the rapidly emerging love affair with the "izakaya" experience can supplant all these voracious North American sushi appetites with something a little more sensible. If anyone can successfully market anchovy at a premium that is comparable to, say, blue-fin sashimi, then it is surely the Japanese.

Human tastes are malleable and often easily adapted to what the market supplies. Lobsters for example - the 'poor man's dinner,' are now a staple of any New England vacation experience. Recently, skate showed up on my dinner menu when I dined at a famous restaurant in Manhattan touted as the 'new lobster' for the crowd. Seems the right buzz word will make even this once discarded bycatch sexy. And Jennifer, why did I study the emerging sea cucumber fishery in the Gulf of Maine? This little charismatic critter is a delicacy in Asia with purported aphrodisiac qualities. It's all about spin. Suddenly, those anchovies sound quite appealing..

By Sheril Kirshenbaum (not verified) on 18 Apr 2007 #permalink

i recommend anchovy-stuffed olives -- soaked in a vodka martini. nothing better!

I think people differ greatly on this issue. For example, if it were completely unidentifiable as my own, I would have no problem with a picture of my naked ass being posted on the Internet. Others would be absolutely horrified by the prospect.

I think people differ greatly on this issue. For example, if it were completely unidentifiable as my own, I would have no problem with a picture of my naked ass being posted on the Internet. Others would be absolutely horrified by the prospect.