Category Archives: Fish

There be giants… and Man likes ’em better dead

In keeping with the L-A-R-G-E swimmers (which are not limited to salties) theme of the latest posts, here’s some fantastical stuff about big fishes. While looking up bluefin info for this post, I cane across several fascinating articles about very large fishes.

Just this very month, a 20 year old kid caught the largest male mako shark on record:


A Scituate man reeled in a 624-pound mako shark Thursday, possibly breaking the record for the biggest male mako ever caught, a biologist said….

… the 10-foot fish is the largest male mako shark ever to be recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, and appears to be the largest male ever caught.

“We didn’t think they got this big, basically,” ….

“When I saw the shark, I said, ‘That would be a dream to catch,’” Sears recounted.

shark082809It’s fantastic to know that there are still such magnificent specimens in our collapsing ocean ecologies. That science is getting new information and we learn a bit more about these little-understood sharks, but does it warrant turning the mako into fish steaks?

What is it with anglers and hunters that beautiful large living things must be possessed, conquered, preferably life snuffed out. Why the impulse to kill and destroy wonders of nature? All that matters is the self-serving dream of boasting of killing something large, something rare. (I remember news a few years about a regal giant moose with magnificent antlers in some US national park who was well-loved by visitors and park rangers; he was found dead and they found his killer because his antlers were on display in the  teenager’s backyard, a teenager who wanted to own the biggest antlers around.)

Or staking a claim in some way.

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world, placid plankton mowers quite apart from the frenzied killing machine image JAWS evoke.

WhaleShark1They have the largest fins of all sharks by sheer size. Inevitably, they are also coveted for that accursed Chinese dish, sharks’ fin soup. I believe their fins are known as one of the highest grade fins, tian jiu chi (fins of 9 heavens). But again, very very little is known about the whale shark itself. No one knows their reproduction cycle and young sharks smaller than 4m are impossible to sight. So the discovery of a baby shark just 15inches in length (pictured) earlier this year caused much excitement.

The sad thing about this baby’s discovery is that it was tied to a stick in the water, like a leashed dog. A hawker was apparently trying to sell it.

WhaleShark2Now that it has been rescued, let’s hope it grows up to its full potential of 9 to 14 metres and live out its natural lifespan of 60 to 100 years.

WhaleShark9I hope it doesn’t end up as fish steaks like some of its kind did, whether due to fishing net entanglement, shipping lane accidents or hunting. I certainly hope it doesn’t become an exhibit like Sammy either.

While it is the ocean giants that mesmerises, the muddy depths of freshwater rivers do plump a surprise or 3. Well-known are the Mekong’s giant catfish, Chinese sturgeon (thought to be a source of the dragon mythology), the Amazon’s Arapaimas or Pirarucu. Less well-know, and only recently certified as legitimate are giant freshwater stingrays. GiantStingray

In the world of giant swimmers, perhaps the most well-known is Wally the humphead wrasse. Or one fish named Wally did. There are multiple Wallies in the reef.  He resides in the Great Barrier Reef, an ambassador resident after being rescued from a one-way trip to a cooking pot in Hong Kong. However it is not clear whether the stay of execution is permanent or what happens should he be somehow nabbed legally by some enterprising fisherman.

Sadly, wherever they and however big they grow, megafish all face the same threats: overfishing, habitat loss, pollution, climate change. In a word, Man.

The burning question: Who gave all the covetous hunters, anglers, and gourmets of the world the right to terminate these wonders of nature for their own selfish wants and deprive the rest of the world?



(If you find this post informative, you might like to check out these.)

DAMN, where’s my bluefin tuna sashimi?!


(Kusou, watashi no kuro maguro sashimi wa doko ni arimasu ka?!)


From the Mediterranean to Japan, the bluefin tuna is being fished and eaten into extinction.

There are a few species of bluefin tuna, and all of them are in danger disappearing forever.

The species in the greatest danger of slipping into extinction is the western north Atlantic population (stock) of bluefin tuna. Thanks to 4 decades of overfishing, it has been driven to just 3% of its 1960 or pre-longlining abundance – a decline of 97%…
-“Atlantic Bluefin Tuna – Severity of Decline and its Causes“,

Bluefin tuna sashimi is a delicacy the world over, wherever fanciers of Japanese live. This is a phenomenon ignited in the 1970s, and it may soon burn out, not because of waning demand but because demand is fueling the bluefin’s road to oblivion.

The hunting of highly valued animals into oblivion is a symptom of human foolishness that many consign to the unenlightened past, like the 19th century, when bird species were wiped out for feathered hats and bison were decimated for sport. But the slaughter of the giant bluefin tuna is happening now.
The Bluefin Slaughter, New York Times

Before it got reduced to a raw morsel of gourmet ecstasy, the bluefin is a living fish, one of the largest fish apart from sharks (sharks are soft-boned or cartilaginous, while most other fishes including the tuna are bony fish). The tuna’s fishy biology is rare, for it’s a warm-blooded fast swimming fish, the Lamborghini of the seas. Like those gas-guzzling monsters, bluefins are fantastical swimmers capable of hitting 70kmh, traversing the oceans from north to south, east to west, several times a year. They are highly evolved fish, advanced in design, with amazing navigation systems, able to locate prey with their sonar, but closing in with their large eyes. They can even dive down to almost 1000m deep. And like the supercars, these superfish have voracious appetites, requiring 25 kilos of prey to gain 1 kilo of weight. Their average lifespan is 15 – 30 years, and it takes them up to 12 years to go from puny microscopic larvae carried along by currents to sexually mature, sleek giants averaging 2m in length.

It seems like apart from growing up quickly, there’s nothing this beautiful fish can’t do, but it cannot escape extinction if people insist on eating them off the face of the earth.

Stop the gluttony: save the bluefin tuna from extinction!


(taishyokuka no donyoku wo yamete kudasai: kuro maguro wo zemmei kara sukutte kudasai!)


Tuna looks like this to most people – the beginning of sushi, the ignomy of a frozen piece of multilated meat. But it is the end of life, or a parodic prophesy of the bluefin’s future, driven by human greed and gluttony

As Prince Albert, Monaco’s ruler, wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

The forces of selfishness and stupidity that wiped out the great whales and the northern cod in the last century are steaming ahead at full speed… The bluefin tuna is as endangered as the giant panda and the white rhino.” Unless a ban is enforced almost immediately, the only examples of the species could be found in large aquariums.

Is it too pessimistic a view? It doesn’t seem to be, given this typical of the editorials on the state of things:

… what was once known as the common tunny has, over the past few decades, come to be at serious risk of extinction, thanks to overfishing driven by demand from Japan, where bluefin tuna are considered a delicacy and are used in sushi and sashimi.

Efforts to protect the species have floundered.
–  So long, and thanks for all the fish,

How did it come to this?

From Horse Mackerel to Sushi

The bluefin was not always considered a delicacy. In the early 1900s the fish was known

as “horse mackerel,” and its red, strong-flavored flesh was considered suitable fare only for dogs and cats. Nevertheless, big-game fishers off New Jersey and Nova Scotia targeted the bluefin because these powerful fish were considered worthy opponents… Although swordfish were certainly considered edible, tuna and marlin were thought of as strictly objects of the hunt. The bluefin did not become valuable as a food fish until the latter half of the 20th century, when sushi began to appear on menus around the globe.
The Bluefin Tuna in Peril, Scientific American

Yes, sport fishing is a culprit along with sushi gobblers, but the bulk of culpability lies with the sushi and sashimi lovers.

Supplying tonnes of tuna means mass fishing techniques, which are indiscriminatory about what gets snared. Non-target species like birds, turtles, sharks, whales, dolphins, seals, and other fish species become by-catch, sacrificed needlessly.

drowned-albatross… long-line fleets are fishing blind, with little or no understanding of their devastating impact on threatened species,’ says Dr Simon Cripps, Director of WWF’s Global Marine Programme. ‘Responsible countries must urgently implement measures to dramatically reduce the death toll.’ The new report exposes ten years of inaction by members of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT), and calls for reform measures to be agreed at their annual meeting in Australia next week to stem the catch of endangered wildlife and reduce chronic overfishing.
–  Southern Bluefin Tuna fleets endanger a wide variety of wildlife, warns WWF

Take positive action before it’s too late for regrets


(Kaigo no tame ni susugi de aru maini, tashika na koudou wo totte kudasai>


Can you imagine a day where the bluefin tuna has come to the end of the line? A day where there’s no fish? Bluefins are to fishes what whales are to cetaceans.

But for the diehard fan of maguro, especially otoro, the question burning the tastebuds and churning the gastric juices in the guts must be : Is this the end of sushi?

Sushi connoisseurs tend to be obsessive folks – I know because I am one. If we think we must sacrifice good sushi to save the bluefin, we may just as well keep eating bluefin.
Better sushi, but without bluefin tuna, The Christian Science Monitor

Old habits die hard, but what about older habits that were buried by the old habits?

The people who come to my dinners are American sushi eaters ready to experience and understand a completely authentic Japanese meal….

And guess what? There’s no bluefin on the plate. There’s no toro, no hamachi, no unagi, and no fatty salmon. None of these usual suspects of today’s global sushi business are part of the traditional sushi lineage. In fact, until just a few decades ago the Japanese considered tuna a garbage fish.

It wasn’t until after World War II, when the Japanese started eating a more Westernized diet, with red meat and fattier cuts of it, that the bluefin fad began. And it was a fad practically invented by Japanese airlines, so they could load their international flights with pricey cargo.
Better sushi, but without bluefin tuna, The Christian Science Monitor

How do you kick an old habit, one that is harmful? By looking further back to when things were better, more sustainable.

A Japanese chef named Hajime Sato did what celebrity chef Matsuhisa has not had the wisdom to do. With the help of a seafood conservation expert named Casson Trenor, Chef Sato converted his sushi bar, Mashiko, to an entirely sustainable menu….

Sato no longer serves bluefin. And he’s thrilled. “I found probably 20 more fish that no one uses for sushi anymore,” he says. “My restaurant has so much more different fish that I can’t fit them all into the new menu.”

Sushi doesn’t need to die because the bluefin is endangered. With our help, sushi can be reborn – better than ever.
Better sushi, but without bluefin tuna, The Christian Science Monitor

Some may point to farming as a way out. But no, it is really another farcical false hope.

It may not be  too late to do the right thing and keep the legacy meant for our future generations intact, a LIVING planet filled with the amazing bluefin and its fellow dwellers of the deep.

Yet even if the trade in bluefin tuna were to be halted completely, there would be no guarantee that the species would recover. Experience with other fisheries, such as the collapse of the cod population of the Grand Banks off Newfoundland in 1992, has shown that the dynamics of an ecosystem can change when a top predator is removed completely. Fifteen years later, the northern cod stock has not recovered.
–  So long, and thanks for all the fish,

(Incidentally, the intensification of the annual Canadian seal slaughter used the cod fisheries’ collapse as its excuse. Ref  “Scientific Study – my fish!“)

Efforts to study and understand the bluefin tuna are underway. In fact, 1 scientist has said:

“To say there’s not enough science to tell us whether we need to protect the last few fish that are trying to breed on our side of the ocean, that is just nonsensical,” he said. “I believe that is illegal. The law requires better stewardship than [government officials] sitting on their hands and doing nothing.”
Advocates Hope Science Can Save a Big Tuna, Washington Post

But we must bear in mind that even if the bluefin is saved, it still does mean we can feed the bluefin to our feckless appetites again anytime soon:

At the moment bluefin tuna has no protection under Cites, the only global body with the power to limit or ban international trade in endangered species.

If bluefin tuna are given protected status at the meeting in Qatar next March the sale of the fish on international markets would be banned although it could still be sold locally.

Such a measure would eliminate the main cause of over-fishing: the strong demand for the delicacy as sushi and sashimi in countries such as Japan and the United States.
EU considering bluefin tuna protection

It’s not just Japan (but even Japanese think tank are urging Japanese to spare the bluefin). Bluefin tuna are missing from Danish waters since the 1960s, the annual mattanza in Sicily. In fact, it’s not just tuna that’s got problems.

No nation can claim innocence. No one. Even in tiny lawful Singapore, illegal food encounters are not unheard of.

Though there seems to be hope, this constant yo-yoing between austerity and glut cannot be good. Can we actually learn? The insidious food, inc has its claws in every aspect of the human food chain, whether on land or in the seas, and consumers are not guiltless in the concocting of this recipe for disaster. The important thing is for consumers, you and me, to realise what we’re doing (or not) with our habits, and do the right thing.


Mercury Poisoning: People who eat a lot of fish may run health risk. (Latest “HOT” victim – Jeremy Piven)

Problems for Sharks and Dolphins:

All the Tuna you buy comes from wild fish, some caught using vast purse-seine nets to scoop them out of the sea, and some from lines of baited hooks many miles long. Unfortunately these methods catch many other creatures at the same time, including sharks. Longlines around New Zealand are said to have caught 450,000 blue sharks in 10 years!

And there are serious problems for Dolphins. Follow these two links to start researching them. Dolphins may be caught at the same time, or Dolphin mothers may be separated from their young.

Weekend Movie Choice: The Cove

[NOTE: Any comments in Japanese will not have any response from me. The Japanese title and section headings are to pique interest only. While I have studied Japanese, it was a long time ago – but with thanks to the internet, it was a easy task to get translations.]

(If you find this post informative, you might like to check out these.)

Soapbox time… adoptions, CNY binging and species survival

Snuck a break, and checked out 2 bloggies after me own ticker:

1. ADOPTIONS. From the my animal family blog:

Friday, January 16, 2009

Flea Mania, GN’R for the love of cats

… there is something to be said about the unmade-up mind which is often not more appreciated. they are minds still engaged. for those whose minds are well and truly set, those conversations are essentially dead and dried up. and where does that leave us?

recently, the woman encountered a clash of cultures between a cat foster and potential adopter. the foster is dead set against the potential adopter because she has heard too many stories. it’s not right she admits, but would you gamble away the life of a kitten on ideals about tolerance and harmony?

the woman looks at the kitten who is small and fragile in her hands and she wavers. ultimately, she gave the kitten to the adopter.

it is crystal clear we all start out at the same place, foster, adopter – love for the cat. but while those of us who are activists, fosters, volunteers and vested in the capacity that we are, have reached certain conclusions about how exactly a cat should be cared for, it is not for us to judge who can come to those same conclusions and who cannot.

like good art and music, the work of a cat welfare volunteer is to engage and to help all kinds of people along to new understanding and new revelations. if we are set and hardened as bricks, what we might do is save that one kitten. how about the many that we cannot reach with just one hand on the left and one on the right?


Been wanting to write on this topic… but well, there you have it, my animal family style. BTW, GNR = Guns and Roses… glam metal/rock band, not my fav, but definitely an outfit from my musical era and taste.

2. CNY binging and species survival: the sharks edition. From mrs budak’s blog:

“We eat the whole shark” my foot!

12th Jan, 2009 at 9:02 AM
Angel disapproves

I have written about this before but I can’t find the post anymore. With Chinese New Year coming we’re seeing some entries from “food bloggers” on hotel CNY packages. These CNY packages, naturally, feature shark’s fin.

The common refrain from these food bloggers is that we Chinese “eat the whole shark”. Very interesting. We Chinese are indeed well-known for eating up every single part of every thing we catch or kill. That is, if the meat actually makes its way to the restaurant.

Funny how nobody actually asked the restaurants about this, huh?

It’s very simple economics. If you’re out catching fish you’re going to fill your vessel with stuff that fetch the highest price in the market. On a per pound basis shark fins fetch much more than shark meat. Also, only certain species of shark are caught for their meat (dogshark etc); shark meat is otherwise reputed to be very tough, smelly (ammonia) or virtually inedible. Shark’s fin, however, is shark’s fin and no fisherman is going to begrudge a shark for its inedible meat when its fin fetches money.

So you have horrific pictures of finless sharks drowning on the seabed.

We see shark’s meat on sale at the market (SOMETIMES, as not all shark varieties are edible), or “shark meat lor mee”, and we delude ourselves into thinking that we “eat the whole shark”. We eat shark’s fin and psycho ourselves that the rest of the shark is being used somewhere else, somehow. Yeah, right.

So we “eat the whole shark” huh? Do you ask the restaurant if they buy the whole shark and use every single part? Do you know what species of shark the fin came from? Do you ask for the rest of the shark to be served together with the fin?

Please, if you want to eat shark’s fin (and be slowly poisoned by mercury), go ahead. But spare the rest of us “shark enthusiasts” of your hypocritical pronouncements that “we eat the whole shark”. Unless you can be sure that every single part of the shark your fin came from is indeed being used, just stuff your face and keep your mouth shut.

This is where your fucking shark fins came from )

Last year, there was also a feature in the Straits Times about Singaporeans’ growing penchant for shark’s fin soup, focusing on the tradition of serving it at Chinese wedding dinners. One spokeswoman from a top restaurant actually said their supply came from… wait for it… … farmed sharks!!!

‘Most of the couples’ parents consider this dish a premium and without it, they would lose face,’ said Mandarin Oriental’s communications director Ruth Soh.

Still, the hotel ensures that the fins it buys are only from fish farms, and not those that are harvested in the wild, or ‘finned’, she added.

Wow, if there is such a thing as shark farms, why are environmentalists and conservationists still crying hell and highwater for sharks and the marine ecology? But even if farmed sharks were more than an urban legend, like Mrs Budak asks: what about the rest of the shark??? I’d also love to get some details on how the hotel ensures the fins it buys are only from fish farms? I can’t find any information at all about any viable shark farms nor credible research on shark farming, just tonnes on how human consumption habits are killing the ocean’s fishes, including sharks.

The Singapore consumer is more gullible than is criminally possible. Talk about ostriches putting their heads in the sand, which by the way, is another human-made myth.

News: Anger at Qingdao’s live goldfish keyring

Yet another instance of greed and thoughtless cruelty



Anger at Qingdao’s live goldfish keyring

Sebastian Hassett
June 11, 2008

LIVE goldfish trapped inside novelty plastic keyrings are being sold to the public in the Chinese city where Olympic sailing events will take place later this year. The items, which are not official Games merchandise, have been condemned by animal rights groups, who called on authorities in Qingdao to ban them.

Without access to oxygen and food, the fish cannot live for much longer than a few hours. Aimed at children, the keyring – which sports an image of Huanhuan, a young boy who is one of five mascots for the Games – is said to be selling fast in markets.

“The fish would survive just a few hours and would be lucky to make it from the manufacturers to the point of sale,” an RSPCA spokeswoman said. “We can’t understand why anyone would want to buy it.”

The RSPCA said it would be calling on Chinese authorities to crack down on the sale of the items. “It is a gimmick … This product shows a shocking lack of respect for a living thing and should be withdrawn from sale,” the spokeswoman said.


This story was found at:

‘Mad scientists’ prove pet fish have more on the ball than we thought

Yes, fish apparently learn faster than poochie too.

Isaac Newton, a betta fish, swims through a hoop at Fish School. It will get a piece of food as a reward.
Click photo for larger image.
Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.

Teach a fish to play football and … well, now you really could be on to something.

A Pine man and his son have trained a pet goldfish to “carry” a football, “shoot” a soccer ball into a net, even “dance” the limbo.

If you don’t believe it, you can check out photos and videos at the Web site they’ve launched,

(read full article)

To what end? I’m heartened to read that it’s not to start that bastion of cruelty… a scaly circus:

Mr. Pomerleau, who doesn’t expect to give up his day job, says, “It’s been a fun project for the two of us,” but it’s not just frivolous. He’s a longtime vegan who doesn’t eat any animal products. Kyle now doesn’t eat fish.

They both believe that helping show that fish are sentient might help convince people to treat them better, a goal shared by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal’s Fish Empathy Project.

It bothers Kyle, too, that, “People fish for fun. They don’t even necessarily eat them.”

(read full article)

I just hope this didn’t spark off another pet fad, abandoning pet fish is just as cruel as abandoning pet furries. Got this off here:, which also has these interesting articles:

May 24th: Singapore Animal Welfare Symposium

(Screen grab filched off the Otterman’s blog)

What I like about this is the list of organizing bodies found on the about page:

I’d like to go, but have to check the schedule and apply for minion leave first. Registration closes on the 16th.

Trout Stage Daring Breakout at Fish Farm

Interesting article on

Trout Stage Daring Breakout at Fish Farm

Photo via Telegraph

Today, however, I’ll be thinking of a few British trout in terms like daring and brave. Recently, a fish farm in Britain was the scene of an escape worthy of Steve McQueen.

Owners of a fish farm near the village of Alresford have been raising fish for nearly 30 years. Recently they noticed some of their brown trout appeared to be missing. Then a local wildlife photographer and friend of the fish farmers made an amazing discovery.

(Click on the title to read the whole article)

While you cheer the escaping trout, perhaps you might want to give animal escapes a bit more thought. Once again, we ask you:

While thinking about your reactions to animal escapees and the ones who lost their lives for our taste buds, why not consider reducing your meat consumption? If nothing else, it’s eco to do so, and you don’t want to be blamed for literally eating up the Earth’s ravaged resources, do you?

(read whole post)