An expensive meal

Nicolas James Pilcher nick at
Fri Nov 29 05:05:06 EST 1996

Dear all. In response to Gregor's message, I offer my amateur insights for 
mastication.  No offence is aimed at anybody. Only realism. 

Yes, you could get an awareness campaign going, but you have to put yourself 
in the Asian mindframe. Sitting in the UK (or elsewhere for that matter) one 
doesn't get the reality of the picture, or understand where the need for 
these fish originates. 

This is not meant as an insult, please do not take it that way. Just 
consider though, the following: 

Note that this does not occur in western countries, only in Asia. Now wonder 
why. Also wonder why it occurs in Hong Kong, one of the most developed Asian 
nations. Then think about whether the demand is based on the ability of the 
everyday consumer, or a select few. The wonder if that select few care. 
Don't be remotely surprised that most of them know exactly how much more 
valuable that fish would be to the fish population rather than the human one 
(many of them descend from generations of fisherman and have only recently 
made it big financially).  Your public awareness campaign may reach the 
everyday consumer, but these are not the origins of the demand for the big 
berthas.  To target the rich, you have to offer them an alternative that 
will still allow them to 'save-face' and still act rich. This is Asia. 
Welcome to a new mindset.  The need to entertain guests and provide them 
with a large live fish is cemented now as an important tradition - modern it 
may be, but it's there and we have to live with it.  These people don't eat 
this at home. Ever!  It is only to show off politely that it is done.  These 
are aspects to consider when tackling this issue. 

Hope the above will give you a new perspective.  
Best regards, 
Nick - an amateur 
Nicolas J. Pilcher 
Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation 
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak 
94300 Kota Samarahan 
Sarawak, Malaysia 
Tel ++ 60 82 671 000 Ext. 181 
Fax ++ 60 82 671903 
E-mail nick at 

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