This summer, you'll want to consider adding your smartphone to the plastic bib, nutcracker, and melted butter for your lobster dinner. If an initiative from EcoTrust Canada called ThisFish takes off, you'll be able to scan tags on the coveted crustaceans (and a growing menu of other seafood as well) to learn more about your meal's route from boat to table.
By tagging individual fish, shellfish, and crustaceans, ThisFish aims to connect retailers and consumers with fishermen who sustainably harvest the seas' dwindling bounty. See a fish in the case or a lobster in the tank, look up its tag online, and get the story of a fishing family from the maritime provinces or the wild inshore fisheries of British Columbia. Or skip it and dine in ignorance—but risk purchasing seafood strip-mined from the oceans in the industrial fishing practices that are driving the last few commercially viable species to extinction.
It's high time we raise our awareness of the sources of our seafood. As Paul Greenberg outlines in his book Four Fish: the Future of the Last Wild Food, the world's fisheries are threatened by predatory large-scale fishing and reckless, unsustainable aquaculture. The small-scale, family-based inshore fishing communities that practice sustainable methods, meanwhile, are caught in a squeeze, imperiled by dwindling stocks and competition with industrial rivals. "Is mankind capable of consciously creating restraint?" Greenberg writes, "or is humanity actually hardwired to eradicate the wild majority?"
As an answer to Greenberg's query, ThisFish may seem quixotic, but it's canny as well. It gives independent fishermen the leverage they need to brand themselves, reaching out to consumers with the kind of marketing power once reserved for fish-stick makers. Consumers, meanwhile, satisfy the craving for charisma and connection instilled ashore by farmers' markets, community-supported agriculture, and the locavore movement. To date, ThisFish has tagged some 170,000 fish—an impressive start, but only a drop in the bait bucket compared to the more than 80 million tons of seafood harvested annually worldwide.
[Hat tip to Singularity Hub]
[Image: Flickr user patrickneckman]