This is a story about fish, family, and food and how fishing, family and food, collide with change. On our flight from Tel Aviv, Paris, Detroit to Denver, this past spring I had the rare opportunity to read a newspaper from cover to cover. Air France provided a whole rack of foreign language newspapers just before boarding and I picked up the International New York Times. On Tuesday, May 17, I read an article written by Jonathan Balcombe entitled, “Fishes Have Feelings Too.”
He is the author of “What A Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins” and also the director of the Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy. What I learned in this short article nearly blew me away as I begin to become more familiar with the inner lives of fishes. From giant mantra rays with the largest of brains to a humble five inch fish, the joyful little frill fin, who can memorize the layout of a tide pool and remember it forty days. A pretty amazing fact that is good story telling for adults and children.
Scientists have started to observe fish and they are discovering that fish use tools, they communicate with one another, they head shake and do a full body shimmy. They recognize one another, have self awareness in front of mirrors, belong to fish societies and use their bodies to point out prey.
Fish actually partner and work together so they can dine more often. Some reef fishes referred to as Cleaner fish, make their living from Client fish by plucking parasites and algae from a variety of Big fish clients. Big fish line up and wait their turn. This activity is referred to as the spa treatment for the larger fish while the cleaner fish enjoy a continuous snack. If one cleaner fish does a better job, his waiting line becomes longer, as the big fish appreciate a skillful therapist. Large fish prefer a cleaner fish that bites lightly, and they also seem to appreciate a little fin caress. Just observing this as a scientist must make you smile from ear to ear.
Every year, an estimated half trillion fishes are hauled out of their habitat. The unwanted by catch dies from suffocation, and crushing when caught in nets. Many magnificent fish are in peril of extinction, species like cod, swordfish, the Atlantic halibut, the scalloped hammerhead shark, even the rows of canned tuna available at the grocery store since the 1960’s have caused an 85% decline in the Atlantic Ocean and 96% decline in the Pacific. This is the reality of the Bluefin Tuna who can swim up to 50 miles an hour.
As you can see from my own family photos, perception changes, and the simplest way to help fish survive and thrive once again, is to appreciate them by eating less of them. As oceanographer Sylvia Earle said, “The ocean has given us so much for so long, it’s time for us to return the favor.”
Try my Blackened Tofu Fish Steak recipe. I think you’ll love it!
With warm wishes from my kitchen to yours,
Day’s gone by… Clarice was one of my favorite aunts growing up, we were close in age and had a lot of fun together. She became vegan at age 70!