Monday, February 26, 2007

Eating Flipper

I live on Florida's Atlantic coast. It's a fisherman's paradise of marinas and dockside restaurants and if you order Dolphin for dinner, you call it Dolphin and you know you're getting one of the area's most popular fish: Coryphaena hippurus and not Flipper. Order where the locals eat and you may find out where they're biting today, what lure to use and how deep.

One can however, sometimes see the sunburned faces of Northern tourists blanch at the word on the menu and the restaurants that cater to the ictheologically ignorant prefer to use the oddly inappropriate and painfully balbative Hawaiian name Mahi-Mahi to avoid scaring them. Nobody eats, or wants to eat or wants to hear about anyone eating those beautiful mammals: the Bottlenose Dolphins or Tursiops truncatis who follow your boat, leaping from the water for what seems to be the sheer delight of it.

Nobody but the Japanese, of course. Somehow their aesthetic appreciation for nature does not extend below the waterline. Despoilers of the sea on a vast scale, their fisheries are immune to the slightest sentim
entality as concerns the wholesale slaughter of whales, dolphins and other marine mammals, threatened, endangered, cuddly or otherwise. In the whaling port of Taiji, about 400 miles south of Tokyo, the waters are as thick and red as Gazpacho with the blood of Dolphins. They are surrounded, driven into lagoons and coves and butchered alive. It's a billion dollar industry, says American environmentalist Richard O'Barry, who has trained the animals in movies such as Flipper.

The defense of the practice rests on tradition and on the needs of the fishermen themselves. Fishermen who despite that advanced and wonderful Japanese economy we're used to having held up to us as an example of our backwardness, might starve if they had to stop. Traditio
n is never an excuse, nor is profit, but there you have it. Trendy and hip couples from New York eating Mahi-Mahi, proud of wearing only fake fur, their pockets and apartments stuffed with the Japanese gadgets they depend upon to feel hip and superior, their Japanese car parked outside looking oh so trendyuppiehip and environmentally friendly and fashionably anti-American are supporting the bloody slaughter of the animals that swim freely and protected along our coast and in our estuaries; supporting the drift nets that sterilize enormous areas of sea floor habitat, threaten the survival of the species we eat and the food chain that supports them. Buy yourself a Prius, kill a thousand baby seals. Turn on your Toshiba and gorge on what remains of the whales.

So feel good, all ye trendies. Complain about the Kyoto Accord, gripe about American products and go buy yourselves a Honda Accord. Make it blood red.


d.K. said...

Is it really so hard to come up with a name for a fish other than "dolphin" since another better known sea dwelling animal already has that name? I confess, I cannot order it when I see it on a menu in Florida, knowing as I do that it is not the mammal I'd be eating, but I just can't go there. I'd rather order and eat a Prius...

Intellectual Insurgent said...

Thank goodness I don't like seafood. Just don't go puttin' up pictures of slaughterhouses and we'll be cool. :-)

Capt. Fogg said...

The name "bottle-nosed" dolphin got contracted into Dolphin -- I don't know if the movie had anything to do with it, but that's OK, there will be more dolphin for me if you guys don't eat it.