Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
For years I have been reporting on the incredible waste of marine wildlife for the purpose of feeding domestic livestock.
Feeding rendered fish to livestock has made the pig and the chicken two of the most prolific aquatic predators on the planet.
As the incompetent government fisheries bureaucracies around the world scream that seals, dolphins, whales and sea-birds are eating up all the fish, entire populations of numerous marine species are being scooped up to feed factory farmed chickens and pigs or to raise captive salmon in over-populated aquatic concentration camps.
But there is another terrestrial based dominant marine predator - the voracious house cat!
This week a study by Dr. Giovanni Turchini and Professor Sena De Silva of Deakin University in Australia lends credibility about my past reports that domestic house cats are eating more fish than many seal species.
According to the report, 2.48 million tons of fish is used globally by the global cat food industry every year.
Compared to this the Grey seals of the North Atlantic consume a mere 314,000 tonnes of fish. Harp seals, the species that the Canadian government has demonized as a voracious fish eater (who would have thought, they eat fish eh) eats according to the Canadian government, 890,000 tons of capelin, 186,000 tons of arctic cod, 37,000 tons of Atlantic cod, and 350,000 tons of sand lance each year for a total of 1,393,000 tons of fish.
Harps seals and Grey seals combine eat an estimated total of 1.7 million tons or 780,000 less than the world's domestic housecats.
In Australia alone domestic housecats consume an average of 13.7 kilograms of fish a year which exceeds the Annual per capita consumption of 11 kilograms of fish and seafood consumed by Australian hominid citizens. Cats alone are eating more fish than people.
Most of the fish fed to cats includes sardines, herring, anchovy and capelin, the same fish that provide the foundation for a food chain that supports the larger fish like cod, tuna, swordfish, as well as marine mammals and birds.
It is these same so called forage fish that are caught in enormous amounts for use as fishmeal for livestock and farmed raised salmon. These fish are also utilized for fish oil and even fertilizers.
These small fish are literally the grass that the larger fish, seabirds and sea mammals graze and depend upon. Their mass exploitation has led directly to the crash of major fisheries.
It is one of the greatest crimes of irresponsibility for the fishing industry to be wiping out these small fishes for fish meal, cat food, and fish oils.
"While much of the criticism has been on the grounds that forage fish could be better used for human consumption directly, particularly amongst the poorer nations of the world, rather than in the production of food for farmed fish, little attention has been paid to the amount of forage fish used by the pet food industry," Dr. Giovanni Turchini said.
"Pet ownership is increasing globally. The pet food industry is moving towards a constant increase of production and manufacturing and marketing premium and super-premium products. These gourmet pet foods contain a significant amount of fish that may be suitable for direct human consumption, while different raw material unsuitable for human consumption, such as by-products of the fish filleting industry, could be used."
Dr. Turchini believes the estimated forage fish consumption in the pet food industry brings to the forefront a much needed debate in an area that warrants further and urgent investigation. Other sectors that make use of wild catch for non-human food production such as fur animal rearing, feed for ornamental fish, bait and attractants for recreational fishing, and bait for commercial crayfish industry also need to be monitored.
"The central issue is not an advocacy of pets versus aquaculture or other agricultural/animal husbandry activities, but the need for a more objective and pragmatic approach to the use of a limited and decreasing biological resource, for human benefit."
That is Dr. Turchini's position. My own position is that the fishing industry must leave the small fishes alone to sustain the larger fish, the marine mammals and the sea-birds. Fish is not even a natural food for cats and gourmet fish food for cats is simply a display of ridiculous extravagance. Salmon farming is an incredible waste of fish from the ocean and feeding fish to pigs and chickens is the most irresponsible utilization of living resources imaginable.
These small fishing industries are ecologically criminal operations that are now targeting zooplankton for conversion into a protein paste for livestock. Humans along with our domestic animals are literally eating away the life support systems of our oceans and humanity will pay dearly in the future for this ecologically insensitive exploitation.
Blaming seals for eating the fish that we feed to cats is both ecologically arrogant and ignorant.
Yet no one would think of clubbing kittens to death like we do baby seals. If anyone were to do that, the screams of indignation and horror would be enormous yet we spoil one fish-eating species that does not naturally eat fish while bashing out the brains of another species that evolved to live in harmony with fish species in a valued prey predator situation.
Seals control fish populations that predate on other fish populations. For example the harp seal preys upon capelin and mackerel that feed on young cod. Fewer seals mean more capelin which means a higher young cod mortality. Seals also disseminate nutrients into the sea in the form of feces, afterbirth and their own bodies when they die. Domestic cats contribute absolutely nothing to the marine eco-system except harmful foreign bacteria and viruses flushed into aquatic systems from their fecal material. Yet governments and fishermen demonize the seals as they catch millions of tons of fish to feed to the cats.
The seals work for a living, the cats don't have to do a thing for their meal from the sea except to be ornaments for the vanity of humanity.
Any person who feeds fish to their pet cats is involved in perpetuating an ecological crime. Any person who feeds gourmet fish to their cats is displaying a level of ecological ignorance that is appalling.
In our oceans, seals are being slaughtered, puffins are starving, sea-birds are disappearing as the oceans turn to lifeless deserts before our eyes.
In the United States alone more than 85,000 fishing boats ravage the oceans, stripping life from the bottom, from the surface, and from mid-water levels, turning over rocks, smashing coral, wreaking the structures that provide shelter to younger fish. Life in our oceans cannot survive this onslaught of heavy gear, long lines, traps, drift nets, drag trawlers, purse seine nets and poisons.
Even the tropical coral fish are not safe as we pull them from the sea by the millions to feed the aquarium pet trade. These fishermen extract them with bleach in many cases, killing many in the process.
Raytheon has a fish finder that they sell with the motto of "fish can run but they can't hide."
The industry seems to be proud and boasting of their ability to eradicate fish from the sea.
If we can't even stop feeding fish to our cats then how are we ever going to stop the destruction of our oceans?
I was raised in a fishing village. I was raised on fish, lobsters, scallops, clams, oysters and even seaweed. I don't eat fish anymore. I view it as an ecological crime because I have seen their numbers diminish and I've seen the eco-systems go from bountiful to lifeless in my lifetime and it horrifies me that we can be so insensitive and so ecologically stupid.
This week I checked out the fish market in my local grocer. There were Chilean sea bass there, endangered but still for sale. The cheapest fish were the farm raised freak fish with their artificial color and their soggy sickly flesh. There were fake crab legs made out of pollack converted to artificial crab with chemical dyes and scent, there were octopus and quid and plenty of mussels and oysters. People were paying $20 for a small package of raw tuna for sushi and there were swordfish and shark polluted with mercury.
To look at the fish market there seems to be no shortage of fish yet to keep those shelves full, the largest assault fleet ever conceived with over two million ships and boats ravage and rape the oceans every day, literally vacuuming life from the sea. From every port in the world these boats head out to deploy weapons of mass destruction in the form of drift nets, seine nets, drag nets, longlines, troll lines and in some case they literally use a large vacuum to scoop up fish from the sea.
This armada ranges from massive multi million dollar drag trawlers and purse seine clippers to decrepit scows with longlines and rusty hooks held up with empty bleach bottles.
This kind of merciless hunt and destroy approach would never be tolerated if we were to pursue terrestrial wildlife in this manner. We contemptuously call the meat from giraffe, elephant, gorillas and hippos by the name of "bush meat" and dismiss the Africans in the Congo who eat it as being a part of the problem contributing to the diminishment of wildlife in what is left of the African wilderness.
Yet large predators like tuna, shark, swordfish and mahi mahi are simply "aquatic bushmeat."
Hunting down a lion and slaughtering it is no different than hunting down and killing a shark. Slaughtering an elephant on the savannah of Africa is no different than slaying a large bluefin tuna in the North Atlantic.
When poor Africans kill a giraffe to eat, we complain over a meal of swordfish or between bites of tuna at the sushi bar.
It's our typical and particular western form of disassociation and demonstrates our complete alienation from the eco-systems that support us.
The evolution of life in the sea is being heavily influenced by the rapid and recent introduction of terrestrial aquatic predators like the pig, the chicken, the housecat and the human being.
These new predators have created a chaotic assault upon marine life that is rapidly diminishing all species within our oceans. We are literally eating our oceans towards ecological collapse.
It's hard to picture that cute little kitten munching on a meal of gourmet tuna as an agent of aquatic destruction but the reality is that cats along with people, pigs and chickens are dangerously consuming life from the seas.