it bugs me when I hear the term "overfished" used to describe why a fish isn't on a menu - most people have NO IDEA what fish are over or underfished. It's not their fault, it's just what the media tells them.
Tuna - not overfished.
cod - not overfished.
Caviar (russian, caspian) - functionally extinct.
seabass (I assume Chilean) - not overfished.
Now here's where my credibility comes to question - why would someone say these things about fish that we KNOW are overfished? I sit on the board of directors of an advocacy group for reptile and amphibian conservation. I know it isn't fish, but I also sold fish on the retail side for almost 8 years. Being involved in conservation and fish sales at the same time forced me to be pro-active in learning the hows and whys of fishing and overfishing.
So i read the papers, I looked at the surveys, I talked to fishermen and distributors. I talked to conservation officials. I had to get the whole story.
So here is what I got from my research regarding the above mentioned fish:
1) All fish, oceans, and ecosystems are in serious trouble. At a certain point, conservation is like putting a rock in front of a moving train; it might make a dent, but we have a LONG way to go. Our air and water is cleaner than it was a hundred years ago, but not clean enough. A lot of damage is already done, and is irreversible.
2) The term "overfished" is over used. Most fish that people think are overfished are not. This is intentional misleading by researchers and media. The status of US fisheries are evaluated constantly by the government, and overfished fisheries are managed intensively. Certainly you are not going to be able to buy a US fish from an overfished fishery. Perhaps an imported fish, but that's a whole different can of worms.
However, there are many fisheries that are exceeding their sustainable catch, or use fishing methods which are not sustainable. there is a big difference between "overfished" and "overfishing."
For instance, the way that tuna are fished was changed in the late 80's. We all remember when "Dolphin safe" was the big thing? Tuna fishermen used to target the large fish that ran with dolphin schools, and in doing so would inadvertantly suffer some "bycatch" - in this case, dolphins.
When the dolphin-safe bandwagon rolled in, the tuna fishermen had to change tactics, so now they target the smaller, immature yellowfin that hang around offshore detritus - but here's the catch - it takes ten 100# tuna to make up for one 1000# tuna. So now the question is, will tuna become overfished because we are taking so many of them?
that's where the media comes in. They hear that word "overfished," and they are on it like flies. All of a sudden, tuna is overfished. Sorry, thats incorrect.
Similar thing with chilean seabass - there are TONS of seabass, they have an enormous range in the south half of the southern hemisphere, and the liscenced commercial fisherman will never be allowed to overfish them. But there are also lots of pirates in the seabass trade, unliscenced fishermen who sell the fish overseas to people who don't need a papertrail...
boycotting seabass in the US will put those legitimate fishermen out of business, and the pirates will continue to take whatever they want. Bad idea. Good idea? More policing of international waters where seabass are caught. They started that in the last ten years, especially after 9/11 - wouldn't want someone crashing a seabass into the statue of liberty.
Cod haven't been overfished in years, they reached a low point at the turn of the 19th century but have rebounded to record numbers now - groundfishermen are up in arms because they still aren't allowed to fish them, despite enormous quanities of cod.
Caviar is the only real sticking point here...the Beluga, Sevruga and Osetra sturgeons are in serious trouble. The method of harvest is unsustainable, the quantity of fish is very small, and demand is very high. They will continue to be hunted (likely into extinction) by locals who have no other way of feeding themselves or their family. Taste it now, if you haven't...because you might not get the chance later.
Domestic sturgeon caviars are very good, and much cheaper...white sturgeon, farm raised in california, is probably better than osetra.
Enough for now!!