Monday, 22 August 2011 15:35
Guest blog: How a reality TV show and a vegan ship named The Brigitte Bardot got Mumbai resident Siddharth Chakravarty to save Blue Fin Tuna and give up sushi. Next, he takes on Japanese whaling fleets and gets filmed by Animal Planet. Want to guest blog for bpb? Write in with your story to
Posted by Siddharth Chakravarty
Welcome Aboard Brigitte Bardot
I could never get enough of spicy tuna rolls, and I’d seek them out everywhere I travelled. Working in the Merchant Navy meant gaining access to ports around the world that supported my sushi cravings. Then early this year, a reality TV show and a vegan ship changed my point of view and palette.
In April, I signed up with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS), an international marine wildlife conservation non-profit, recently known for their reality TV show Whale Wars. I captained their fast interceptor vessel, the MV Brigitte Bardot, working on a campaign to save the blue fin tuna from illegal poachers. We worked the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya, since we believed that the war would prevent the EU Fisheries Department from patrolling this area, making it a haven for illegal fishing fleets.
You Can Volunteer Too
The Sea Shepherd works completely on public-funding and the entire crew on board their three ships is made up of volunteers from all over the world and different walks of life. Not just restricted to those who’ve worked on a ship before, it means that you can volunteer too! ( See details at :http://www.seashepherd.org/get-involved)
A Sea Change
My joining The Sea Shepherd wasn’t incidental. I’d been brooding my years in the Merchant Navy and well into my 10th year at sea, was bored and desperate for a change. Understandably, the Sea Shepherd’s ships are completely vegan. I’d been contemplating turning vegetarian for a while, but the fact that this would happen so suddenly had me worried. I had thought of bidding adieu to meat and fish with a week of gastronomic splurging- steak, prawns, sushi, tandoori chicken - but cold turkey it would be! The food on board – in spite of all the dairy substitutes – was yum and not without a sense of humour; there were breads labeled ‘Badass Banana’.
The reason I started this post with sushi was because I now have a deep understanding of the tuna fish industry. During my save the Blue Fin Tuna campaign, I interacted with marine biologists and other conservationists to learn that tuna is an apex predator and like sharks, is at the top of the food chain. Rampant over fishing has led the Blue Fin Tuna to now be classified as an endangered species and yet, a 7.2 billion dollar industry ensures that strict restrictions are not imposed on fishing. Further, tuna corporations are set to gain huge profits from the species’ extinction. At current market rates, a mature fish sells at USD 75,000, so one can only imagine how prices will sky-rocket once the fish becomes rarer.
Next Stop: Save the Whale
When I re-read what I’ve written, it almost seems like I’m sermonising. However, I am only trying to convey that seeing hundreds of these fish trapped together in cages has made a deep, irreversible impression in my mind. I still go out with friends who eat sushi and don’t try to convert them. The facts are on the internet and almost everyone who wishes to know more about their food source is free to Google it.
I’m off to the Shetland Islands next week to join the crew after their recently concluded campaign to bring attention to the illegal pilot whale slaughter in the Faroe Islands. From there, we sail to Australia and prepare to head down South to meet the Japanese whaling fleet. All aboard?
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For more information on volunteering, visit http://www.seashepherd.org or email me at