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McDonald’s fish sandwiches may be depleting fish stock

September 20, 2009
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 25: A contai...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Mc Donald’s fish sandwiches, and most likely the fish served in Denny’s restaurants as well, has recently been given the equivalent of an “orange roughy” rating, showing it’s not sustainably  harvested.  The hoki fish, harvested off the shores of New Zealand, lives up to 25 years, and even though regulation officials claim no damage has been done, there are fewer fish to catch. Realistically, 25 years is a long lifespan for a fish, meaning it must be older than say 6 months to spawn.  The fish wouldn’t reach adult size for a few years at least.

In Michigan, when the DNR specified that people were to take larger fish, rather than fish that fit within a short size range, the fish that anglers were allowed to keep were the fish in the prime spawning years.  Fish populations declined, but Michigan’s DNR still has not changed its guidelines or limits to determine the size of a fish that constitutes “big enough” but not decimating to the populations.

In a population of fish whose lifespan is 25 years, and whose value is based on the amount of meat they carry around, the likelihood that commercial fisheries are removing the best spawning or reproductive population are great.

The World Wildlife Fund has been watching hoki fishing for some time and feel that this species has been greatly overfished.  In addition, the deep-sea trawling required to get the fish kills other animals like seals, skates, and sharks.  The Seafood Industry website proudly states that Mc Donald’s consumers eat hoki when they eat a fish sandwich:

Hoki Exports

Total exports of hoki in the year ended December 2008 were worth $NZ 151 million.

The major markets for hoki are Europe and Australia taking around 70% of the total export. The Asian nations are other important markets.

Virtually all hoki is exported as frozen fillets, frozen blocks of fillets and minced meat.

Hoki Meat Quality

Hoki flesh is moist, white and delicate, with few bones. It flakes easily and is excellent for forming into fish block. It is also well suited to further processing into a wide range of consumer presentations. In fact you eat it every time you order a Fillet’o’Fish at McDonalds.

but all that news made me want to do was vow not eat anymore McDonald’s fish sandwiches.  I don’t want a fast food sandwich to become an area of guilt for me because I would be contributing to the decline of ocean populations.  Thanks, I won’t have a side of guilt and unease with  my lunch.  Do you think that in an industry raking in $150 million off of a living product the most diligent safeguards are in place to protect other species?  Yeah, me neither.

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