The Grumpy Naturalist

Red Alert – Before The Herring Disappear: 3 minute read by Farriz Mashudi 11/05/21

Wikipedia’s ‘soused herring’.

Pickled herring, I love it. With white onions on a soft white oblong bap, bought from a White purveyor often in an off-white van. It’s always been in Holland, or more correctly, The Netherlands where I’ve had them. The popular Dutch snack—salty in an oily brine, sometimes pickled with gherkins on top, comes tempered by the herb’s chopped sweetness. They’re a treat to be consumed standing, whether at the weekly market or in front of the old windmill in Leiden, by a busy canal on a walking tour in Amsterdam, or at home where I live now in Doha and make the sandwich myself from time to time.

Herring swimming on Pinterest.

But here’s the problem— It’s about right-ness, which despite how it might sound above isn’t to do with anything white. (That was just to net you in, oops!) … Although, herring is a white fish. But, No, that’s not it. The real problem is over-fishing. And herring fart, by the way. They let out air underwater. Makes you go, “EWW,” right? I’m not certain if it contains methane, or is even smelly, but it’s the way they signal to each other to vamoose when there are predators about. I can imagine some humans using this as a clearing strategy, too, when they want to have, say, a dimly lit den, to themselves.  

From such baseness, springs a lofty idea. Or perhaps it’s an ideal. Never mind, here it is—

With it being Ramadan presently, and likely the last day today to savour of the blessings of the Holy Month, I’ve made the decision to stop eating fish, indefinitely. Does this make me a hypocrite for not checking the provenance of the Omega-3 in my fish oil tablets? Or is it the other way around—with fish oil rather, in my Omega-3?

What’s scarier than sharks? —NO SHARKS. Photo credit: Human Impact 2014

But there you go, beyond getting bogged down in the specifics, how far will I go, you ask?

I wonder myself.

I wonder, too, if this act by a single person acting all by herself, will be for nought? —You know, pointless and futile, and for nothing. Well, it will be if the brutal harms caused to our oceans (and to human survival), don’t stop.

I’ve put an important point in parenthesis right there. Did you notice it? You’d think when it’s in brackets that those are the words of the writer’s sub-text, but actually, it’s quite the opposite intent behind this use of punctuation. The curved bookends serve to highlight a point, which is this: When the oceans die, so do we. It’s as simple as that. And just as disconcerting.

We need the big whales and incurably cute dolphins, which when they come up to breathe in the seas, fuel the phytoplankton that eat up the carbon that human activity produces on land … Was it too long a sentence that I used there? For those preferring the short and snappy, have a bite of this then: Land lubbers, Homo sapiens, we need to leave the aqua mammals in their own habitat.

But there’s more: What’s scarier than sharks? —NO SHARKS. Without the apex predator second-tier eaters and all beneath them will eventually (sooner, rather than later —another thing I’m highlighting here), just disappear. And without seafood swimming around, that’s when our oceans will starve, and die.

Pickled Herring Fillets | eBay
Pickled herring fillets on ebay.

It may be fated, but does the end of the world have to be as nigh as right around the corner?

A sailor went to sea-sea-sea

To see what he could see-see-see

And all that he could see-see-see

Was the bottom of the deep blue sea-sea-sea

I remember singing this rhyme in a clapping game with criss-crossed hands when I was little growing up in Vancouver. At Stanley Park on the weekend, Mum would take us to watch the dolphin show. We’d laugh seeing the funny seals waddling about on their fins. Thinking back, it was a traumatised childhood—Not for me, but for those poor creatures. We know better now, don’t we?

So, either let the herring be red and never caught, or let red be the colour you see when you next think of downing seafood.  

PANNING CAUTION – Do watch for yourself before simply panning the controversial documentary film: Seaspiracy on Netflix, featuring Ali Tabrizi’s discoveries on 1) #fake sustainability labels; 2) #abuses by the commercial fishing industry – in the use of trawling nets, poaching off coastal Africa, enslaved labour on Thai fishing boats; and 3) #fish farming malpractices, amongst 4) #other related shockers.

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