Restaurant Demand For Smaller Fish Filets Spells Bad News For The Oceans

Source: NPR/Alastair Bland

Photo: Duangphorn Wiriya/Unsplash

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Bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to catching, selling and eating fish.

For certain snappers, in fact, a market preference for plate-size whole fillets is driving fishermen to target smaller fish. For some wild fish populations, this is a recipe for collapse.

“The preferred size of a fillet in the U.S. market corresponds to juvenile fish that haven’t had a chance to reproduce,” says conservation biologist Peter Mous, director of the Nature Conservancy’s Indonesia Fisheries Conservation Program. “A lot of species here are heavily overfished, and this demand for small fillets is making things worse.”

Of particular concern for conservationists are such species as Malabar snapper. Mous says this fish becomes sexually mature at four pounds and can grow as large as 29 pounds — but global restaurant and retail markets prefer to buy it at two pounds and as small as one pound.

“For a large species like giant ruby snapper, the differences are even more extreme,” Mous wrote in an email. “The trade buys them at 1 lb., but they only become adults at 9 lbs., while [they] can grow to 73 lbs.”

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Photo: Duangphorn Wiriya/Unsplash

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