Is it an act of environmentalism to turn the “invaders” of nature into a meal, or is it a new way for humans to override the natural world?
| The beautiful killer becomes a delicacy on the plate|
The red lionfish lies quietly on the plate, the huge poisonous spines on its body have been pulled out, cut into neat fish fillets, marinated and put into the pot with white wine and capers Cooked and served to the table. The meat of red lionfish is white, delicate and slightly sweet, which is not inferior to sea bream in every way. Enjoying such delicacies is more like corruption than justice. However, the red lionfish is considered a huge threat in the Atlantic Ocean. The adult red lionfish can be up to half a meter in length, with red and white body, sharp venomous spines on the back, and transparent fan-shaped pectoral fins protruding from both sides, reminiscent of a crown of rippling feathers… until it puts The prey is driven to the corner of the reef, and then you can see its true face with a bite. The red lionfish is notoriously voracious, preying on more than 50 species, and its stomach can expand to 30 times its usual size after a meal, sometimes containing up to 90% of its body weight.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with mere gluttony. In the eyes of conservationists, the red lionfish is extremely destructive, but not because of its extremely high hunting efficiency, nor because of its poisonous spikes, because these characteristics are found in their native South Pacific and South Pacific. The Indian Ocean is not uncommon, and there, the red lionfish is just a link in the food chain. Smart little fish will try to avoid it, and it will inevitably die in the mouth of big fish. It was not until 1985 that a red lionfish was spotted off the coast of Florida, making its first appearance in the western Atlantic. Scientists speculate that this may stem from the marine aquarium trade: during the import of ornamental fish samples to the United States, the elegant and beautiful red lionfish is likely to cause discomfort to the staff by eating up other partners in the aquarium. little trouble, and was released into the sea. They are extremely adaptable to environmental changes, and they are equally comfortable in shallow water or more than 300 meters underwater. They thrive in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean and have spread as far north as Rhode Island in 2001 and as far south as Brazil in 2014.
Therefore, the red lionfish is classified as an “invasive alien species” by marine biologists. As a newcomer, it has key advantages: Native crustaceans and small fish haven’t yet grasped the killer nature of this new friend with its pretty lace and lollipop stripes, as have large predators like sharks and groupers. Strangers are suspicious and tend to avoid. And the red lionfish never seems to have learned enough is enough to give their prey a little respite. The researchers observed that once a red lionfish starts preying, it can lead to an 80 percent decline in native fish populations from juvenile to adult in as little as five weeks. Red lionfish are not only a threat to biodiversity, but also to habitat: Lionfish’s many prey include juvenile parrotfish, which grow up to feed on algae that can suffocate coral reefs and die when the algae grow out of control. die. A bigger problem is that the red lionfish reproduces at an astonishing rate: Female lionfish lay eggs every two or three days, producing around 2 million eggs a year.
How to deal with such a large number and such rapid growth of red lionfish? Currently, some expensive high-tech solutions are being researched, including recording the fish’s own voice to trap them. In addition, in Florida and the Bahamas, an annual fishing competition called a “derby” is held, incentivizing divers with cash to hunt red lionfish. Some red lionfish derbies are run by the nonprofit Coral Reef Environmental Education Foundation, while others are run by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. During a weekend event last year, more than 14,000 red lionfish were caught, nearly 7,000 pounds of which were sold to a seafood dealer for a gourmet meal.
Over the past decade, the human struggle against red lionfish has opened up a new battlefield: restaurants and home kitchens. There, we gradually learned to defeat the enemy “bite by bite”. In Florida, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in partnership with the Coral Reef Environmental Education Foundation, recruited chefs to study a way to turn red lionfish into a delicacy: pan-fried and then skewered on the lionfish’s own spines ( spines need to be pre-roasted to eliminate the poison); or diced and made into ceviche. In Colombia, where the government has listed red lionfish as a “national security threat,” authorities have persuaded local priests to persuade believers to eat red lionfish during Lent as a charity to help restore the balance of the ocean.
｜”If you can’t cure them, just eat them”｜
And that’s just a small part, there are many other movements dedicated to reducing or even eradicating invasive species through “catering”: the six-meter-long Burmese python in the Florida Everglades; the lamprey in the Great Lakes that feed on fish blood; The wild boars that uproot crops and wreak havoc on city streets from Berlin to Hong Kong…they’re all for dinner. Joe Roman, a conservation biologist at the University of Vermont, created educational websites such as “Eat the Invaders” in 2011, and put forward slogans such as “If you can’t cure them, just eat them”, shaping the original pure hedonistic behavior into It became a civic duty, an act of heroism, even a holy war.
In fact, until the 19th century, scientists rarely distinguished between native and exotic species, and descriptions of this distinction were usually observational rather than judgmental. This situation changed during World War II. At that time, the British ecologist Charles Elton once issued a slogan: “The fight against the spread of harmful animals and plants must be persisted to the end!”, as if these invaders were the destroyers of the ecosystem. In 1958, he published the paper “The Ecology of Plant and Animal Invasion”, which established invasion biology as a discipline. The discipline grew in influence in the 1990s, when, as globalization accelerated the movement of plants and animals across borders, the planet entered an age of homogenization in which biodiversity was dramatically reduced—ecosystems lost their diversity And uniqueness, everywhere starts to look the same.
To support a diverse future for the planet, universities and conservation groups from Oregon to Georgia hold annual invasive species-themed cook-offs, fundraisers and barbecues. In Maryland, blue catfish native to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico have taken over the Chesapeake Bay, posing a huge threat to the survival of local blue crabs. As a result, blue catfish is on the menus of state institutions such as schools, hospitals and prisons.
| The new favorite of old gourmets? Difficult to swallow? |
The rationale behind these actions is that an increase in dietary demand can increase the incentive to hunt invasive species, with the difference that demand needs to be stimulated to the extent that supply exceeds demand. However, once gourmets do fall in love with these novelty delicacies, the plan is likely to backfire, reshaping the invasive species into a valuable commodity. For example, in 1902, in order to eradicate the rats in Hanoi, Vietnam, the French colonial government announced that people would get a bounty for every rat tail they showed as evidence of killing rats. As a result, the cunning profit seekers simply cut off the tails of the mice and then released the mice, allowing them to continue to reproduce and produce more mice, thereby obtaining more tails and bounties.
In fact, making these “bad” things delicious is not an easy task. For example, nutria are particularly difficult to sell. Weighing around 14 pounds, the large rodent has orange-yellow tusks and usually lurks in swamps. It was brought from Argentina to Louisiana in the 1930s to develop a fur farming industry, with Greta Garbo and Elizabeth Taylor wearing nutria pelts over their shoulders. However, since the late 1980s, under the pressure of animal rights defenders, the fur industry has gradually declined, and the already rampant nutria in the Louisiana wetlands has multiplied. vegetation ten times as much as their food. Robert Thomas, a biologist and director of the Center for Environmental Communication at Loyola University in New Orleans, was one of the first to propose cooking as a solution to this problem. In 1993, he hired chef Paul Prudhomme to turn the erstwhile saboteur into a stew and host several annual feasts. Then the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries joined the fun, posting recipes for spicy nutria and nutria fried rice online. Prudhomme described the taste of nutria meat as “mildly flavored lamb,” while others suggested it was more like a leg of rabbit or turkey.
| Enjoy, Save |
Humans eat first to survive and then for pleasure, and for some, being able to choose or refuse certain foods is a luxury. According to the World Health Organization, more than 820 million people were still without food in 2018. We do not allow ourselves to be incontinent when our basic needs are met: Although biologically speaking, humans are born omnivores, many of us will voluntarily accept dietary restrictions, eating only moral or Foods that are religiously permitted. The ability to control your appetite has been considered a virtue throughout human history, from the fasts of saints to the veganism promoted by some public figures. It is said that the Greek philosopher Pythagoras refused to eat meat because he believed in the reincarnation of the soul after death, whether human or animal. The followers of Jainism in ancient India are more thorough. They strictly follow the principle of non-violence, not only prohibiting harm, but also oppressing and enslaving other creatures, including collecting honey from bees. Modern vegetarians emphasize the enormous environmental costs of raising livestock.
People tend to focus on forgoing certain foods, as if sacrificing appetite is moral. Local dietists (only eat food produced within a radius of 50 kilometers from the place where they live, the purpose is to reduce the pollution and danger that will occur during food transportation and storage) give up eating strawberries in winter; raw foodists (only eat raw , unprocessed food, or food cooked at a temperature below 42 degrees Celsius) give up eating bread (except for flaxseed bread made by putting flaxseed in a dehydrator to make a paste). The term “invasive gourmand,” coined around 2010, serves the exact opposite purpose: to indulge rather than suppress the appetite, an idea that lends a sacred aura to the contents of the plate, making them meaningful beyond mere food. When you wipe out the red lionfish from your plate, you’re saving all the native fish that are suffering from it and could go extinct without your help. You’re not eating red lionfish because it’s tasty or nutritious, you’re doing a good deed. In this way, your sense of responsibility and pleasure can be satisfied at the same time, so why not do it?
Although the essence is still profit-driven, this concept still has merit. Chefs have also worked hard to prove that these invasive species can be transformed into delicious feasts, but the preparation process may be troublesome. For example, federal regulations targeting interstate trafficking of wild game could make sourcing these ingredients difficult.
For professional chefs and culinary enthusiasts alike, invasive biological ingredients are proliferating, and some are even prized for their unique flavors, such as Mediterranean wild fennel, which blooms in abundance in many badlands, and black fennel from the waters off Texas. Tiger prawns, as long as half an arm, are as fat as lobsters. At Mias Sushi in New Haven, Connecticut, chef Lai Bang deep-fries Asian crab balls for a popcorn-like snack and slices meat from the Burmese python (a snake The meat is notoriously hard), put it in a pot, add sesame oil and ginger to cook. Louisiana chef Philippe Parola has created the “Silverfin” brand for the flood of silver carp, which can grow to more than a meter long and often jump out of the water and punch boaters on the head, causing concussions. Today, the troublemaker sits on the freezer shelf in a breaded fish cake, cleaned of the bones.
Some invasive species can indeed wreak havoc, not only by radically altering the habitats of native species, but also by carrying unknown pathogens. In 2014, for example, a fungus spread by the pink beetle was identified as the culprit for the death of hundreds of thousands of myrtle trees in Hawaii, which make up 80 percent of the island’s forests and whose branches are the Habitat for the critically endangered honeycreeper. Some biologists worry that the spread of pathogens across species is becoming more frequent, especially in new environments where there is no immunity. Three-quarters of the human diseases that have emerged in the past decade have been transmitted by animals, including the new coronavirus.
|”Don’t judge species by origin”|
On the other hand, the word “invasion” has a profound meaning, just as the American biologist Matthew Zhou said, the word “invasion” stigmatizes certain animals and plants , we make eradicating them the central task, distracting people from solving more difficult and serious environmental problems.
In the 1950s, when Elton was writing Invasion Ecology of Plants and Animals, colonialism was collapsing and Aboriginal rights were finally being recognized, and the distinction between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal had a unique social resonance. But now, the emphasis on foreign identity is a negative label. In 2011, Zhou and 18 other ecologists co-published a paper in the journal Nature titled “Species by Origin”, stating that “in most human and natural communities, long-term residents and newcomers Both come and go at the same time.” From the long-term perspective of evolution, the division between native and alien organisms is not clear-cut. For example, we all think that modern camels are native to Asia and the Middle East, but their ancestors spent several geological epochs (millions of years) in North America until they became extinct there about 12,000 years ago It is but a fleeting moment in the whole of natural history. In England in the 16th century, the Eurasian beaver was hunted to extinction by fur traders. When the government reintroduced the species to Scotland in 2009, local farmers protested. In order to avoid natural enemies, beavers often build dams with various materials collected in their habitats. These dams are usually built at narrow crossings where water flows through, which can easily block drainage channels and cause floods. Many beavers were shot for this.
In addition, the destroyers of nature can also become the object of people’s favor. In the U.S., pet cats are responsible for the deaths of as many as 4 billion birds and 22 billion mammals each year. A recent genetic study found that pigs on what is now the island of Hawaii were first brought there by Polynesian navigators around AD 1000. Today, wild boar hunting has become a tradition in Hawaii, and roast pork has become the soul dish at Hawaiian banquets. Then there’s the kudzu, which can climb utility poles and eat up entire porches, but has also become a distinctive Southern icon.
One might argue that invasive organisms have posed such a threat to the environment that it doesn’t make sense to dwell on such minutiae. Arguably, the movement to include invasive animals on the plate is a great feat and has greatly increased awareness of this crisis, but we have to go a step further and explore what British ecologist Ken Thompson calls “the most dangerous species”— -Humanity. He said that human footprints are everywhere. We plunder natural resources, steal everything from indigenous creatures, kill them, and spread deadly diseases. We also cause devastating damage to new lands. We are natural interveners, the top predators, and unscrupulous survivors. We occupy every corner of the earth, whether it is the sea and sky, or icebergs and deserts. We reshape the world by our own standards, without awe. We are the real invaders. Who will punish us again?