Once upon a time, bountiful fish filled the sea. Now, we catch too many and destroy marine ecosystems. It’s a fishy story of magnificent and troubled oceans and it stars … you!

Consumer choices speak volumes in the marketplace, and the market dictates fishing practices. Pick wisely, oh powerful one.

Your plot unfolds at grocery stores and restaurants. Will you choose something devilish like shark fin soup or look a little harder for something heroic and sustainable? The prize is within your grasp.

If you choose B.C.’s albacore tuna, you will be the hero. In other parts of the world, tuna is either netted or caught using kilometre-long lines with hundreds of hooks that snare poor seabirds, dolphins, and sea turtles. Eek. But fishers of albacore in B.C. waters dangle a single hook-and-line in the ocean. It catches younger, smaller fish that contain less mercury (a dangerous neurotoxin). So buy B.C. as a plot twist and save your brain.

Your next challenge: Prawns. You will spy imported tiger prawns. Either they are unsustainably farmed by wiping out ecologically significant mangrove forests in the tropics or violently harvested by bottom trawlers ripping up fragile ocean floors. Ignore them. True enlightenment will come if you choose sustainable B.C. trap-caught spot prawns. The oceans will heave a wave of relief. And your story will end “happily ever after.”

Kai Chan is an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair at the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability (IRES) at UBC. He’s a transdisciplinary environmental researcher, integrating ethics and social and natural sciences. Taina Uitto is the national SeaChoice
program co-ordinator.

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