Slippery when wet

No wonder fish don’t get depressed.

No wonder fish don’t get depressed.

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“Sustainability is like pornography: It’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it.” So said Monterey Bay Aquarium vice president Michael Sutton at a two-day symposium on the world’s dwindling fisheries at the Smithsonian Institution last week, The Washington Post reports. The program, titled “A Guide to Picking Wisely From the Sea,” brought together scientists, fishermen, fish farmers, chefs and fish purveyors to discuss what can be done to reverse the tide. No clear consensus emerged, but for those baffled by the porn analogy, chef Bob Kinkead put it to the Post more succinctly. “It’s very simple: If we don’t take care of the resource, it will be gone,” he said. “The problem is that it’s an enormously complex issue to solve.”

As much as Auntie loves her smut, she doesn’t buy the sustainability-porno comparison. Sustainable solutions aren’t always that complex. Consider the declining fisheries, for example. One obvious answer is to ask people to eat less fish, so stocks can be replenished. Here’s a little incentive to cut down, at least on fish of the freshwater variety. Last week, Baylor University researchers released a study that found significant amounts of pharmaceuticals—from anti-depressants to heart medications—in fish caught downstream from large wastewater facilities in five major U.S. cities. Which immediately caused Auntie to recall that famous local punk band of days gone yore, Sewer Trout.

Of course, we might also want to clean up the water while we’re replenishing the fish stocks. In fact, professor Bryan Brooks, co-author of the study, told The Associated Press the report is as much about water as it is about fish. “The average person hopefully will see this type of a study and see the importance of us thinking about water that we use every day, where does it come from, where does it go to,” he said. While Sacramento was not in the Baylor University study, the Environmental Protection Agency plans to accelerate similar ongoing studies nationwide. Not that we have to wait for the results. We can begin improving the quality of our water right now, by simply limiting our own use. It’s not like it’s pornography or anything.