Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Conservation - Filipino Style!

Pic from

From a Filipino Cooking Blog.

1 kilo of Shark or Manta Ray
3 Coconuts (grated from the market)10 Lemons (kalamansi)
3 Cups Malunggay Leaves
10 pcs chili peppers (Labuyo)
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 tbsp. coconut oil
1 cup chopped onions

DIRECTIONS: Prepare a large pot by placing the shark or manta ray with just enough of water to cover the fish. Bring to a boil and take out the fish and dispose the foul hot water. Let the fish to cool off, meanwhile, cut and press all the kalamaPnsi in a bowl. Flake the fish from its bones and set aside. Prepare the grated coconut by mixing a cup of lukewarm water and pressing it with both hands, pouring the cream to the prepared bowl, then set aside. In a hot pan, put 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, then saute the garlic and onions until golden brown. Place the flaked fish and the lemon juice (kalamansi), then let it cook for another 10 minutes. Add the pressed grated coconut cream, the malunggay leaves and the chilies and let it simmer for another 10 minutes until the dish is almost dry. Serve it hot on a dish with steamed rice.

And then, this

Sad to say that sharks are included in the list for extinction nowadays as shark fins were needed much for the soup delicacy in all of Asia by Chinese restaurants. As an environmentalist, I do not recommend to cook shark for Kinunot. We only cook the Manta Ray which is still very sufficient in numbers in the oceans.

Sad indeed!
Especially, when the Shark in question is the 41st ever seen Megamouth Shark! Caught near Donsol, Philippines, and then quickly turned into a Bicol style feast. Right under the nose of the local WWF representative who pleaded with them not to do it!

That sure sucks!
But should we all gnash our teeth and proceed with indiscriminate finger pointing and condemnation, like the majority of the media and the bloggers have chosen to do?
Frankly, I'm on the fence on this one.

From what I understand, "fishermen trawling for mackerel" accidentally caught the Shark that died in their net. They then brought it back to shore for an "assessment" that was effected by the WWF.
Did you spot anything improper so far?

What I miss, is some explanation as to what the WWF wanted to do next.
Schlepp the 1,000-pund, 13-foot carcass to some scientific institution? For what: DNA and tissue analysis, for which they could have taken a sample in situ? Or oblige them to follow Fisheries Administrative Order 208 that "provides that after documentation, the carcass of all endangered marine animals should promptly be buried"?
And, did they offer some compensation for foregoing a welcome and serendipitous meal of 500 kilos of protein? That's a lot of Kinunot feeding a lot of people!

Why I'm playing advocatus diaboli, is that this touches on several topics that defy the black-or-white judgments we all-to-often apply. When it comes to Conservation, here's what I believe.
  • The root cause of all our problems is that there is too many people striving for ever more Lebensraum and quality of life. Alas, that's a fact of life and whilst preserving our idealism, we must propose solutions and not just engage in vocal condemnation. Also, the solutions we offer need to be pragmatic and based on our willingness to compromise.
  • Conservation must ultimately address the issue of poverty. Meaning that when dealing with poor, Third World countries, it's just not good enough to issue regulations ex cathedra. There is a need to provide for compensation or for showing viable alternatives.
  • Assuming that it is OK to eat animals, the alternative to harvesting wildlife is to breed domesticates. Typically, that implies clearing native land for pastures and in order to grow animal feed. Ultimately, that may well entail far worse consequences for the Environment.
  • People of different Cultures may eat whatever they please. If that implies the killing of animals and especially, the harvesting of wildlife, it must however happen in a sustainable, and ethical way.
  • Ethically speaking, all Life has the same value. If it's OK to kill and eat Pigs, Chicken and Tuna, it's equally OK to eat Dogs, Cats - and Sharks! And Whales, too! Once again, to me, the only discriminating factor here is sustainability. Rat stew anybody?
Yes, it's complicated!

With that in mind, was cooking an accidentally caught, rare Shark really such a crime?

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