As a young recent college grad, I’m often asked to dine on fancy maki rolls. I must admit, from time to time, I enjoy indulging in fresh raw fish. But more often, I leave my friends and colleagues baffled as I simply take a pass on sushi.
I try to explain that I feel guilty every time I take a bite of fresh fish while living in middle in Chicago. To me, there is too much involved in the process of getting that fish onto my plate.
It’s not because I don’t believe it’s fresh – I honestly believe that our technology is great enough to deliver me fresh fish – rather it’s that I don’t believe in consuming food that I KNOW takes gallons upon gallons of fuel to reach me. I have thus resolved that I will try to only eat fish that:
1) I caught or
2) I know has come from within a hundred miles or so of the place I’m dining at.
I have always tried to consume food that is “local” because it is inherently better for all of us. Not just from a nutritional standpoint, or in terms of freshness. But look at it through the lens of energy consumption. If trucks and trains keep barreling towards your locus every day to bring you food from far away, how much more pollution will enter your environment in the name of putting food on your plate?
I’m not the first or last to venture this viewpoint.
The End of the Line, a documentary based on a book by Charles Clover and produced by Rupert Murray, premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival to expose fishing and fish-eating practices for what they all-too-often are: harmful and irresponsible.
Like me, the film is not anti-fishing or anti-fish-eating. The goal of this illuminating documentary was to advocate for sustainable fishing practices and a responsible attitude towards the world’s oceans. Since its 2009 release, The End of the Line has been changing minds and habits, as the best documentaries are capable of doing. The film has been linked to positive changes in consumer behavior and big business shifts onto sustainably-sourced seafood (say that 5 times fast).
Building an eco-development in Panama puts me and the rest of the team at The Resort at Isla Palenque in range to taste some of the finest seafood in the world. Traditional dishes celebrate Panama’s abundance of fresh fish and are so delicious that I’m glad the environmental community isn’t pushing for abstinence, because my ceviche cravings might make it difficult to comply. The resort’s restaurants will use local, sustainable sources for seafood dishes on the menu (including several ceviche variations), and avid anglers who visit Isla Palenque can continue to enjoy their favorite sport in sustainable fashion by investing in lead-free tackle, practicing catch-and-release, and making a few adjustments to their journey out to reduce carbon emissions.
In addition to more conscientious practices for harvesting and consuming fish, The End of the Line campaigns for the establishment and maintenance of marine reserves. The effects of irresponsible fishing, pollution, and ocean acidification are felt worldwide, even in places where the offenders are prevented from engaging in their dirty work. Marine biologists observe diminished biodiversity in oceanic environments on a global scale; where thriving ecosystems once existed now stretch underwater deserts dotted with oases of life. These precious oases may grow and recover some “ground” if carefully stewarded. Hope for the world’s oceans rests in its marine reserves.
Isla Palenque’s aquatic backyard, the Parque Nacional Marino Golfo de Chiriqui, is one such reserve. The protected waters of this marine park are home to a diverse array of aquatic species and are visited by majestic humpback whales from June through September every year.
Amble Resorts’ founder and president Ben Loomis routinely asserts (jokingly, I hope) that whales are fish, not mammals. Whatever they are (mammals), we’re proud to welcome them home to this beautiful part of the Pacific, and are committed to increasing awareness of threats to ocean health worldwide, whether the evidence ends up on your plate or not.
Originally published June 18, 2009. Updated by Rachel Kowalczyk.