Scuba diving dilemma
by Janice Nigro
I finally started to like to eat fish, even to love sushi, and then I became a scuba diver.
Scuba diving puts you in that awkward position between loving to see underwater animals underwater and loving to eat them. It first occurred to me as a potential problem when I was diving in the Seychelles. We were lucky one day to spot a huge number of day octopuses on our dives. It shouldn’t have been a surprise when it was Mr. Octopus curry that was the main dish at the dinner buffet that same night. I couldn’t eat it.
On Bonaire (not a very big island), I had to question a travel companion’s choice for dinner, pasta with Bonaire lobster, when just hours before she was marveling at them underwater.
In the Philippines on Panglao Island, fresh seafood is displayed out in the open each night at the beach restaurants. You choose the fish you want, and the restaurant prepares it for you. No matter how fresh it is though, a fish doesn’t retain the same vibrant colors you saw on a dive earlier in the day. I ended up eating a lot of chicken and pork.
It’s a dilemma; when you go diving, it’s really your chance to eat the best seafood of your life. Poisson cru (raw tuna in coconut milk) prepared in French Polynesia tastes incredible until you take a look at the giant beautiful blue fin tuna, a powerful big animal in the water, still on the tables in the early morning market in Papeete, Tahiti. Two of the best meals I had in Norway were fish and scallops taken moments before on a dive. I ate tuna at every meal for a couple of days on a small island in Fiji after a small Japanese couple caught two enormous blue fins. I have eaten tuna sashimi until I couldn’t eat any more while anchored in a harbor in the Banda Sea. And every meal on a dive boat in raja Ampat was less than memorable except for the one night we were treated to wahoo sashimi, the melting in your mouth kind. That wahoo alone forever changed my idea of what fish could taste like.
It is a conflict of interest it would seem, surrounding ourselves during the day with the very fish we are going to eat in the evening. When I am on a liveaboard, the purchase of a fish supports a local fisherman, so it eases my guilt, and sustainable fishing practices are now used in more places today. In Moalboal, for example, fisherman can take sardines from the famous sardine ball but only by line fishing (I have to admit I didn’t see exactly how this was done).
It isn’t typical (or legal in many places) for scuba divers to take any animal while diving. In Norway it’s different. Many become divers just to hunt. Scallops, crabs, and fish can all be harvested from the sea on a dive. The reality is that it is a more environmentally conscious way to fish-commercial fishing can easily destroy seabeds and reefs-but it took me by surprise because one of our primary goals as divers is to do everything possible not to touch anything underwater.
But when I see so many fresh seafood choices lying on ice in our markets at home, I wonder if sea life should be a choice at all. Much of it goes unsold. And while it may be repurposed, it becomes an expensive way to feed our pets.
In Norway, it is typical for a vegetarian to say “I eat fish.” I think they and we have it wrong because it’s harder to keep track of our fish than our chickens.
©2016 Janice Marie Nigro/janikiInk.com