Does your house cat like fish? The average American kitty loves fish. Thirty pounds a year, in fact. Twice as much as you eat, if you're an average consumer. Fish they catch off the coast of Thailand. Sadly, the men who work those boats, whose job it is to feed your Fluffy, labor in conditions far worse than medieval servitude.
A harrowing series about life aboard these fishing boats ran last week in the NY Times; it will curl your hair. But it probably won't change your mind about fish.
It's not that Americans don't like fish, don't go fishing, don't catch fish and don't eat fish. We do, but that last part, eating fish, we do most of that in restaurants. And restaurants serve mainly four fish: tuna, salmon, bass, and cod. Four fish whose popularity puts their very survival at risk.
We humans have developed a preference for big animals (cows, pigs). American humans, at least, prefer beef to bunnies, even though rabbits, easy to raise and a fine source of protein, are devoured by families across the globe.
Paul Greenberg's 2011 book, "Four Fish," called attention to this paradox; he recommends eating smaller species like herring, mackerel, and butterfish. Restaurant chefs might think they can't sell "trash" fish, but now there's a new impetus to change the Americans consume the world's resources of shellfish and fin-fish by appealing to the chefs themselves.
Paul Allen, the Seattle mogul who co-founded Microsoft, who owns the Seahawks, and whose real estate company, Vulcan, has developed South Lake Union, has a keen interest in environmental stewardship, specifically sustainable seafood. Now Vulcan's philanthropic arm has launched a program called Smart Catch to encourage restaurants to serve more sustainable seafood, and this is the first day of Sustainable Seafood Week. (A list of participating restaurants is here: http://www.sswnational.com/seattle/.)
As for you, the restaurant customer, you may not be able to do anything directly about the lives of the fishermen aboard the boats in the waters off Thailand, but there is a way to put your money where your mouth is. New York City held a Sustainable Seafood Week in June; San Francisco and Washington, DC, will follow in September. Slowly, slowly, one plate at a time, one fork at a time, Allen and Vulcan hope to change the way we eat and the way we treat the ocean. And ff we can do it in Seattle, Smart Catch will expand nationwide.