Eating fish and fish oil: healthy or not?

Eating fish and fish oil: healthy or not?

Is eating fish and fish oil as interesting as it seems? “No” is the resolute answer from Dos Winkel, underwater photographer, nature conservationist and author of Wat is er mis met vis?! en visolie … (What is wrong with fish?! and fish oil…) and, more recently, De Huilende Zee (The Crying Sea). According to Winkel, there are many good reasons to stop fish and fish oil consumption right away.

The first reason being worldwide over-fishing and enormous by-catches. Worldwide, more than 40 billion kilos of fish and other sea creatures – including dolphins and other small whale-like creatures, sea turtles and especially other fish varieties that should not or may not be caught – are being thrown back into the seas, dead. This constitutes an unimaginable slaughter. If the same thing was to happen with land creatures, the whole world would be outraged, but the fact that this takes place underwater means ‘out of sight, out of mind'. Only about 10% of all predatory fish remain. If we continue to catch blue tuna as we are today, the species will be extinct in a few years. Money is the biggest driver behind the eradication of life in the oceans.

Annually, about 38 billion kilos of fish are caught to be processed into fish, pig and chicken feed. Pigs worldwide eat twice as much fish as all the Japanese in a year and six times as much as the Americans. Between 2 and 6 kilos of wild fish is required in order to produce one kilo of farmed fish. The world has been turned ‘upside down’. Farmed fish was once intended to save the oceans from destruction, but now precisely the opposite is true.

Healthy fish or fish oil? The fatter the fish, the more toxins it contains. The consumer is slowly beginning to realise that using the oceans for over 100 years as the biggest dumping site in the world is not without consequences for the animals living in the polluted water. Fish and fish oil have, in fact, become inedible. The problem is that Europe may well set maximum permitted levels of dioxins, pcb, methyl mercury and other hazardous substances, but the combinations of the permitted toxins can, in many cases, lead to all sorts of cancers. See the recently published Fish-toxin guide:

Mangrove swamps are also coming under huge pressure. These unique natural areas which serve as nurseries for hundreds of varieties of fish are being felled to make room for prawn and fish farms. It is not only the fish varieties that mature in the safety of the mangrove roots which are threatened by the decimation of these ecosystems, but other animals that are very specific to mangrove areas are also becoming victims. This has led, for example, to a typical wading bird (the Malaysian Milky Stork) becoming as good as extinct.

Finally and perhaps the most important reason to stop eating fish or fish oil is that the oceans are becoming increasingly acidic far more quickly than science every thought possible. This acidification is the result of increased CO2 production. The oceans absorb 50% of all CO2 but can barely keep up with the demands made on it. The result is that the water is becoming increasingly acidic, leading to all organisms which contain calcium slowly but surely dissolving. Scientists believe that all coral reefs will have disappeared by 2060. The calcium cases of the polyps will simply have dissolved by then. The same goes for a great many varieties of vegetable and animal plankton which also often have a skeleton which contains calcium. And plankton is the basis for all life on earth. Just like the CO2-absorbing and O2-emitting rainforests which are being destroyed for the purposes of soy and corn plantations, the fruits of which are used for animal feed, the plankton in the sea is now also disappearing. Vegetable plankton (phytoplankton) is not only the most important CO2-absorber but provides at least 70% of all of the earth’s oxygen. Without oxygen, everything will die. It’s as simple as that. Fish excrement contains calcium carbonate, an excellent buffer for acidic CO2. Thanks to more than 22 billion euros per year, however, we are taking all of the fish out of the water and this means that the acidification cannot be halted. The more fish in the sea and the less CO2 we produce, the longer Homo sapiens will be able to roam the world.

The solution

As a result of the fact that the meat and fish industries are responsible for almost 20% of all greenhouse gases, one of the simplest solutions is to drastically reduce meat consumption and stop eating fish. Fish must, of course, remain available as 500 million people in third-world countries have nothing else to eat. Unfortunately, Europe is now using our taxes to take this fish from these people too. There are, of course, many other solutions and for more information I refer you to: De Huilende Zee, by Dos Winkel (spring 2010) – Published by Elmar, € 29.95.

And what about omega-3 fatty acids in fish and fish oil? To obtain just one litre of fish oil, 120 kg of fish must die. But fish do not make fish oils themselves; they only obtain it via their diet. This omega-3 is contained within some types of vegetable plankton, single-cell algae that are easy to farm. So we don’t need any fish at all! And, even better, the vegetable omega-3 supplied by Amanprana, is better for the fish, better at preventing the acidification of the seas and better for human health. Okinawa omega from Amanprana supplies omega-3 fatty acids without the disadvantages of fish oils.

A short film about the acidification of the seas can be found here: