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Canadian Projects

Canadian Blog

by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate

Born Free USA's Canadian Representative

Barry is an artist, both with words and with paint. He has been associated with our organization for nearly three decades and is our go-to guy for any wildlife question. He knows his animals — especially birds — and the issues that affect them. His blogs will give you just the tip of his wildlife-knowledge iceberg, so be sure to stay and delve deeper into his Canadian Project articles. If you like wildlife and reading, Barry's your man. (And we're happy to have him as part of our team, too!)

Seafood Sinners

It’s The Rich Who Are Destroying Us, One Ton of Fish at a Time

Published 07/28/11

Eric is an 18-year-old who has just quit his first job, a summer job at very private golf course where membership (invitation only) is in the tens of thousands per year. “Eric” is not his real name; I’m protecting him from any possible embarrassment, and he is, at any rate, not really the story, except that but for him the golf course would remain forever unknown to the likes of me. Eric’s widowed mom works at an office job and during the time he worked in the club’s kitchen Eric’s hours were irregular, and not made known to his mother and him until it was too late for her to plan to drive him to, or sometimes from, work. When I could, I was happy to fill in. His driving license requires a fully licensed passenger in the car, and no way can he afford both a car and the cost of insurance.

OK, that’s the back story. Before I begin my rant be warned that it may cause some of you to think I am one of those bleeding-heart, do-gooder, left-wing, tree-hugging Canadian socialists you hear about. Sure; fine; whatever.

Eric explained to me that the club periodically schedules events for its well-heeled members. Eric was given an extra workload on such occasions. One such occasion was “fish night,” when seafood was featured on the menu. There were several of those. Once, as I drove unto the grounds to pick up Eric, I just happened to follow a cube van with the name of a seafood supplier from a town some distance away on the side. How many thousands of pounds of seafood could it carry? I don’t know, but I do know that Eric was disgusted by the sheer volume of wasted food he saw each time one of these events was held. By counting the cars in the parking lot, assuming one-point-something person for car, and calculating how much seafood each could eat, if hungry, and then adding extra as it wouldn’t do to run out lobster, tuna, shrimp or salmon, one comes up with ... well ... a heck of a lot.

Meanwhile, back home, day after day after day, my job requires me to see reports on the collapse of this or that seafood stock. I see reports on the effects of global climate change due, experts agree, to the production of greenhouse gases generated by the production of most of the energy we consume, not because we have to, but because as long as we can afford it, it is seen as our right.

And the rich can afford by far the most.

There is no ocean nearby, and I rather doubt that the fish consumed at the club comes from our lakes, since there are so many restrictions on how much of what is safe to eat, especially if pregnant, because along with the production and consumption of all that we use, comes the creation of a smorgasbord of toxins. Also, our lakes don’t produce the variety of life that our collective appetites demand.

So tuna, lobster, caviar or clams are caught from ever-dwindling wild stocks or produced by fish farms with their own suite of ecological hazards, not the least being the amount of wild fish it takes to feed “farmed” fish. And then there’s the energy that goes into catching, processing and transporting those animals, alive or frozen, hundreds or thousands of kilometers, burning up fossil fuels at a cost to us all.

Climate change? The week Eric quit we saw record breaking temperatures in my region ... and a couple of dozen deaths in the United States — none, of course, among anyone who could afford air-conditioning, chilled drinks, and, well, memberships in places like the country club where Eric worked. Of course that’s climate, not weather, but that same week I attended a conference in Ottawa where experts again showed their graphs, charts, satellite photos and diagrams, all illustrating the steady and extensive warming of the higher latitudes.

While some golf clubs are increasingly committing to environmental sensitivity, and arguably are protecting habitat, I don’t think that applies to where Eric worked. Oh, I did see a pair of Canada geese there early in the season; for them the combination of turf grass and open water is irresistible. But they quickly disappeared. The beautiful pond near the entrance has, but for a single transit loon seen there briefly in the spring, remained sadly empty of and I have the darkest of suspicions about why a goose and duck haven, is without geese or ducks. But of course geese excrete and we couldn’t have that, or anything that would disturb the equanimity of our fiscal superiors.

Blogging off,

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