Saturday, March 31, 2007

She Stunned the Lady at the Grocery Store

I couldn’t get her attention away from the fish counter to write down this fabulous idea I had earlier this afternoon. Now, I know Sandy has a variety of idiosyncrasies when it comes to what she eats because the people in your society are fishing various species into extinction and decimating other species with irresponsible bycatch practices. (She refuses to eat shrimp because some shrimpers refuse to use Turtle Excluder Devices* on their nets. She’d rather be safe than sorry…)

So today I’m struggling to get her attention. She’s staring at the labels on the fish in the little ice-chest area of the grocery store. The lady behind the counter is trying to tell her about trans-fats or something that Sandy doesn’t need to worry about. (You should see her. There are no traces of fat on this woman.) And she pipes up with “I’m not worried about that. I just don’t want to perpetuate the rape of our oceans.”

The lady behind the counter and I both stared at her as if she were insane. So the woman gave her farm-raised tilapia, and I quietly escorted her to another area of the store. Do I need to state that I forgot the great idea I wanted her to write down?

*She told me that if I insist on embarrassing her with my blog posts, then I should at least counter such negativity with positive information. Her suggestion was that I ingratiate myself to her by explaining the sea turtles’ plight. Because she has regaled me with this at least a dozen times, I’ve got it down pretty well.

Sea turtles eat shrimp so they are, naturally, in the way when shrimpers drag their nets across the ocean floor, tearing up fragile ecosystems to scoop up shrimp and whatever else is in their path. The shrimpers haul the nets up on the decks of their boats to discover they’ve caught any number of extra species, including sea turtles. (Turtles are heavy and crush and bruise the shrimp, so shrimpers get pretty upset about this bycatch.) Now, a couple things can happen to a turtle caught in a shrimper’s net. She can drown because the stress has sped up her metabolism while the net was drug along destroying the ocean floor and the lives on it. She can merely weaken while in the net and find herself compromised and confused once on the boat. When the shrimpers get angry and toss the heavy turtle overboard, she sinks like a rock and, again, likely drowns. She could end up in a soup pot if the shrimpers can hide the evidence of an endangered species on their deck. One way conservationists came up with to protect both the shrimpers’ catch (read: profits) and the turtles is to place a trap door on the net. This is the Turtle Excluder Device, also known as a TED. It’s a wedge-like doorway that remains closed until something heavy (like a turtle) bumps against it and forces it open. It sounds like a fabulous fix for both parties. The problem is that not all shrimpers are highly intelligent folks. They look at this doorway and think, “Woah, that’s like putting a hole in my net.” (It’s not, but that’s how someone who hasn’t had the concept explained to them properly might view it.) So more education on the topic is needed and better enforcement of the law is necessary. If Sandy were queen of the world, commercial fishing would be banned anyway and the turtles wouldn’t have to worry about nets at all. But she’s not. And until she is, she’s just not eating shrimp. She just chimed in with “Fish are friends, not food,” but I don’t know why that makes her giggle.

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