Monday, October 09, 2006
Kvetch and Release
The New York Times had an interesting article about invasive fish in their "Other Sports" section this past weekend. It discusses several different species introduced in the U.S. and how state and federal agencies are trying to cope with their spread. Particularly intriguing was the section about the releasing of non-native fish into the wild by people observing religious rituals or attempting to establish wild populations for food...and by "people" the reporter means "foreigners." In fact, the article notes that federal wildlife officials see this as a "growing problem."
But then in the very next paragraph:
“There’s a lot of anecdotal information that this goes on,” said Greg Conover, the chairman of the Asian Carp Workgroup for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. “There’s an effort to reach consumers with brochures in Chinese and other languages, but the cultural barriers are there, and more outreach is needed if we are to change behavior.”
Hmm...anecdotal information like the Times is printing, perhaps? The article goes on to point out several cases of invasive and non-native fish and crustaceans being sold in ethnic markets, but this in itself is certainly not evidence of intentional releases. Educational outreach to teach people about the invasive species they know and eat is not in itself a bad thing, as long as the target audience doesn't feel it's being stereotyped. For a good example of an educational seafood pamphlet, check out MIT Sea Grant's product - they did a nice job with the English version of their seafood pamphlet (and probably with the other languages, but I can't read any of them - can you?).
I think any attempt to reach the target groups is likely to be open to accusations of stereotyping, unfortunately, unless for some reason, a good number of non-Asian-origin folks suddenly take to the 'Buddhist' practice of 'fang-shen' (meaning 'setting free' in Mandarin). I don't know how far the practice over there is manipulated by groups who profit from it (e.g. breeders/trappers who sell the animals to devotees) but it might be possible to get the help of more 'enlightened' religious bodies to clarify how the practice can do more harmful (>>bad karma) than good, for all the good intentions.
As you probably know, here in Singapore it's a constant battle trying to get people to understand why releasing non-native species (or even captive-bred native ones) has negative impact. To most folk, a fish is a fish is a fish (substitute fish to terrapin, bird, frog, rabbit, quail).
Thanks budak - I was hoping you'd stop by and weigh in on the matter.
I do not think it is clear at this point what number of people are practicing such acts here in the U.S., or what role "entrepreneurs" are playing in encouraging it.
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