Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Avast, ye maties! Beware of N. Africa seafood

The Somalian pirate saga has finally made it into the prime-time news, but the line between the good guys and bad guys may not be so clear. The Independent newspaper of London last January had a commentary by Johann Hari that noted some of the pirates are in the business of blocking polluters off their coast. If things are as bad as the UN envoy paints it, no one should be eating the seafood fished out of North African waters. If you don't know where it came from, don't eat it.
Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury – you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply. When I asked Mr Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: "Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention."

At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia's seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish stocks by overexploitation – and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m-worth of tuna, shrimp, and lobster are being stolen every year by illegal trawlers. The local fishermen are now starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: "If nothing is done, there soon won't be much fish left in our coastal waters."
And many thanks to John Trotter for posting the commentary to Facebook - bet he didn't think it'd be used in a food blog!

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