Seafood (Un)Sustainability At The Hong Kong Food Expo...

Finally. A positive fishy story from Hong Kong! This time from the Hong Kong Food Expo.

This lady from Japanese company Tosakatsuo Suisan Co. Ltd is holding a tray of delicious 'pole-and-line' wild-caught skipjack tuna sashimi. For the unfamiliar, 'pole-and-line' fishing is a traditional, selective, therefore more sustainable, way of fishing for tuna. Only tuna of a certain size are caught, leaving juveniles to grow up to spawning age, and thus replenish future stock. Unlike long-line fisheries, it actually gives the fish a fair chance and is not greedy. In case you were wondering, that's 'pole-and-line' fishing happening on TV in the background of the photo.

Industrial 'long-line' tuna fisheries are essentially to blame for the global collapse in tuna stocks. This includes the critically endangered bluefin tuna, and the yellowfin tuna, commonly eaten as sashimi, which is also heavily over-fished. Long-line tuna fishing boats have also been heavily criticized by environmentalists for their incidental by-catch of sharks, dolphins, turtles and seabirds. The bottom line is long-line fisheries are causing havoc with the world's marine eco-systems.

And here's a photo taken from the company's website of what 'pole-and-line' fishing looks like:-

In 2009, the Marine Stewardship Council awarded Tosakatsuo Suisan full environmental certification for having achieved sustainable and well-managed fisheries, making them the world's first skipjack tuna fishery to do so. Here's an MSC video all about it:-

Part of the reason I'm posting this is to prove that I'm not anti-Japanese, as has been alleged by a few rabid and anonymous commentors on my Japan's Shark Fin Capital post last month. I even had a death threat from someone called 01kakusan on my YouTube page. I'm not anti-Japanese, I just took some highly emotionally-charged photos in Japan, and then put them online. I let the viewer decide.

No. What Tosakatsuo Suisan are doing is commendable... and they are Japanese.

(For readers in Hong Kong: Pole-and-line caught tuna is available in 'Park n Shop', just look out for the 'Wild Planet' brand.)

But now back to the dodgy stuff...

Unsurprisingly, abalone, (latin genus name: 'haliotis', Chinese name: 鮑魚 'bao yu'), is on sale at the Hong Kong Food Expo. Abalone consumption is controversial because of the widespread depletion of global stocks by poachers and smugglers, many of whom have links to Chinese organized-crime syndicates.

Some larger species of abalone have been so heavily exploited for food that many populations are now severely threatened. That includes the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

South Africa even listed abalone on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix III in 2007, and two species of abalone are listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as 'Endangered' and 'Critically Endangered'.

But no post about seafood (un)sustainability in Hong Kong would be complete without shark fin.

The trade goes on.

According to a Friday report in the Hong Kong Standard, a one metre high shark fin was on display at the Food Expo on Thursday, but I didn't see it anywhere today. It was probably from a whale shark, but I would imagine someone told them that having it around wasn't cool. That is, given the current and growing anti-shark fin sentiment in the city.

This woman was certainly not too keen on me shooting her nice little collection of juvenile shark fins.

I showed her my press pass, and she seemed mad as I continued shooting unharassed.

And let's not forget where all this stuff comes from. Here's an interview with Randall Auraz, from Pretoma, whose friend captured the now (in)famous footage of the live blue shark being finned in Costa Rican waters, that appears at the end of our 'Man & Shark' short movie...


All images and text © Alex Hofford / Image Solutions Ltd. 2011 | Web design in Hong Kong by Ugli © 2011