Wednesday, March 10, 2010


95% of world's living space is occupied by water and oceans form an important part of the planet. The mystery about sea is such that marine scientists have been able to study just 7% of the area covered by sea. Naturally man has to look out to these oceans for supplementing what ever food is raised on the land and food there are, in plenty, just to be hauled in moderate quantities in order to conserve and replenish. But the greed for money, a part of human psyche, has practically destroyed the ecology of oceans and it is shocking to see fish catch doubled in the last twenty years through deployment of advanced technologies resulting in the collapse of 15-30% of the fishery sources and over exploitation in the case of another 20-40% of them. By 2048 it is likely that all species currently being fished commercially would have disappeared, if some discipline is not brought into the present practice of fishing.

It is estimated that almost one billion people rely on fish as a sole source of animal protein while another 2.6 billion derive at least 20% of animal protein from fishery source. Besides the nutritional angle, globally fish industry provides gainful employment to 200 million people while generating an economic value of $ 80 billion annually. What is galling is the encouragement given by the national governments for over fishing through financial incentives through cash subsidy to the industry. EU and China, are known to have disbursed $ 3.3 billion and $ 3.1 billion respectively to their fish industry as subsidy and the global figure for such subsidy is estimated at $ 34 billion per year! Experts believe that world wide there is a fish shortage winch can be met only by increasing fish production in the coming years.

The conflict between over fishing and fish supply deficit is going to be the core issue that needs to be resolved. If environmentalists and conservationists are to be believed more than 10000 species of marine creatures including fish have become extinct due to the much detested bottom trawlers and to obtain one kg of useful fish, these trawlers haul in 20 kg of commercially worthless by-catch, thus denuding the sea of its dynamic and diverse life sustaining Eco system. As 64% of marine area comes under "High Seas" no single country has any sole jurisdiction on these waters which are becoming fertile areas for illegal fishing, estimated at 20% of legal global production. Under such circumstances enforcing any ban on fishing in these waters may not succeed. Major fishing nations like China, Peru, Japan, USA, Indonesia, Russia, India, Thailand, Norway and Iceland owe to the world to come to an agreement based on a consensus to reverse the current trend of over exploitation of the marine fisheries sources in the world. At the present rate of fishing 1173 species of fish are threatened with extinction.

This is where Mussels come into picture as they can provide a highly nutritious marine food that can rival the best one known to day. They are harvested from wild seas as well as from sheltered estuaries "managed" with minimum human intervention. Piers with spiral ropes wound around them or plastic boats from where ropes can be hung provide excellent habitat for Mussels and China accounts for 40% of world production of this marine food. Unlike commercial aquaculture practices, Mussel farms do not need input of chemicals as plankton are the main food for them, available plenty in the sea. In India Kerala, Mangalore and Goa account for almost all Mussel harvest and the local fishery folks entice the Mussels using drumstick, breadfruit and some vegetables for attracting them. 100 gm of Mussels provide about 12 gm of good quality protein, 2.2 gm of fat with 70% unsaturation (rich in Omega-3 fatty acids), besides 88 ug of Selenium, an important trace element, 23 ug of Vitamin B12, 2.7 mg of Zinc and 72 ug of Folates, all vital and critical nutrients for human beings.

Relatively high Sodium content of 280 mg per 100 gm and the possibility of toxicity posed by Mussels from the wild which could have consumed toxic plankton can pose some health risks but those harvested from waters not known to be infested with toxic plankton are considered very safe for human consumption. World wide availability of Mussels in sustainable volumes can be an answer to the dwindling fish supplies that is causing concerns all around.


No comments: