Eating sustainable fish in Malaysia

Is it possible to eat sustainable fish in Malaysia? Rather, the question should be “Can we find fish that are caught in a sustainable way or in a sustainable environment?” This post is about these questions that popped up in my mind after reading a Twit about the fact that the global sea reserves will be depleted within the next 25 years.

As a Malaysian, I believe that there’s not an easy answer to this. There’s definitely a lack of information available on the internet and even in real life about this that it’s hard to make a decision that is comfortable when it comes to eating food. Then again, it hasn’t been easy to find out information about food in the first place.

It started with watching the documentary “The Cove” a few months back which stirred my interest in the healthiness of eating seafood because of the high mercury contain. It also raised the question about eating seafood in Malaysia and especially in Kuching since it’s pretty easy to get fresh fish everyday. Sure, we don’t eat dolphin or whale meat but it is possible to find tuna in tinned food and Japanese restaurants here. Knowing about the fact that mercury content in bigger fish is not a comforting thought at all. That means even fish like shark is also going to be high in mercury and sometimes, it is possible to find shark meat at the fish market here in Kuching, Sarawak.

From “The Cove” website, I also got to know which seafood are safe to eat from a mercury content point of view. Although majority of the fish were not easily attainable in Malaysia or it could also be that I do not know the English version of their names. But having read that Shad is safe to eat, that is a good fish example on depletion as majority of shad (or terubok, as it’s known in Sarawak) is no longer easily available in the market. Most of the fish are flown in frozen from Bangladesh as the local supply had dwindled so much from overfishing that it’s impossible to supply to the local demand. That was news from 10 years ago. Since then, I’m not sure if the supply has ever recovered but it would be doubtful.

Anyway. from there I went over to check out “Seafood Watch” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The information put there didn’t paint a pretty picture at all. The list of what is recommended and not recommended is pretty dismal, so to speak. It looks like only fishes either caught or farmed in the USA are recommended to be eaten. I can understand why fish from Asia and Russia aren’t recommended but places like other parts of EU and Australia made it into the non-recommended list as well. I had downloaded the iPhone app version and took a bit of time to just peruse through the list.

I’m not sure how much of what is written in “Seafood Watch” is true as it would be based on actual documents. And I suppose to a certain extent, most of the information are true since sustainability is not practiced widely in any part of the world. If anything, it takes a few years to a lot time to see any change in the fishing industry. I’m still surprised though that EU nations and Australia didn’t make it into the recommended list i.e. the green portion where it’s recommended to eat that type of fish.

At the moment, I’m eating fish sparingly but still pretty regularly. The salmon that I buy to cook are from Norway but whether it’s farmed or not, I do not known. I haven’t eaten tuna in a few months and the last time was at a Japanese restaurant. Other frozen fish could be imported from anywhere around the world but the source is not stated at all in any of the labels in the Malaysian supermarket. So it’s anybody’s guess how fresh they are and whether they are the leftovers after the good ones have been picked and shipped off to other parts of the world.

See the dilemma that us people have to face with food choices? Well, I would love to eat food that comes from a sustainable source but until more information is available, I guess I will eat sparingly on seafood. I do occasionally eat the fish that my uncle gets from his deep sea fishing trips and those fish and squids are pretty great, even frozen after awhile.

Anyway, we’ll see what the future holds. I hope that it gets better along the way and that we can get better fish today and that there is enough stock for the future as well. It’s hard to know if there are any measures that are being taken to make sure it’s that way. It  looks like sustainable fishing isn’t a huge push for countries outside the USA.

Ah well. I’ll end here all. Have a good weekend then. 🙂

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