Hoki Fish, Orange Roughy, Filet-O-Fish, and the Crashing Fishery
Inside your Filet-O-Fish sandwich is hoki, a rather ugly fish found in the deep waters of New Zealand. It had been praised for it's sustainable fishery management, as a substitute for orange roughy. However, the management of hoki fishery is questioned as New Zealand cut back its catch quota to 100,000 tons from 275,000 in 2001.
Like any fish living under deep sea, hoki does not look pleasant, but when it comes to fish fillet or McDonald's Filet-O-Fish, the appearance of the fish doesn't matter. Hoki was thought to be sustainable, and won certification in 2001 from the Marine Stewardship Council. The New Zealand fishery ministry set a very high quota of 275,000 tons a year until 2001, and allowed trawlers to be used for fishing.
While hoki is a reasonable substitute for orange roughy, its sustainability is questioned by organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Orange roughy was first harvested fro Filet-O-Fish in the early 1990s before discovering that it reproduces very slowly and lives more than 100 years. Hoki has better reproduction rate and shorter life span in comparison. Nonetheless, facing intense industrial fishing practices, such as bottom trawling, the WWF opposed the stewardship council's decision to certify it as "sustainable". In 2007, the council overruled WWF and recertified the fishery.
Some restaurants have cut back on hoki to avoid controversy.
Mr. Trott of the wildlife fund was more pointed. He called the fishery’s management “driven by short-term gains at the expense of long-term rewards” — a characterization the ministry strongly rejects.
But he, too, held out the prospect of a turnaround that would raise the hoki’s abundance off New Zealand and significantly reduce levels of ecological damage and accidental killing.
“We are currently working with both industry and government to rectify all these issues,” he said. “Our hope is that we will see great change and willingness by industry and, importantly, government to improve the situation dramatically.”
In Canada, Newfoundland learned its lesson in the 1990's when its cod stock crashed. The fish population never picked up ever since. The same is happening across the globe as our appetite for fish grow. In a recent documentary, The End of the Line, the global problem of overfishing is explored.
The issue of overfishing receives little attention but deserves a lot more. Industry and governments refuse to make fishing practice more sustainable because of overwhelming commercial interest. Instead, they answer with more advanced industrial fishing technology and venture farther into the open water to salvage the remaining bounty.