Published on Sustainable Cities

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish*

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Blasty Fish, Dr. Seuss‘From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere!’
That one blue fish cost a million plus,1 that one blue fish and all the fuss.

In cities here and cities there, you’d think by now we’d be aware.
That we’d take some care for what is rare. But here’s another to make you stare:

Soup can come with a shark’s fin; yes, so strange a fin that’s mixed right in.2
So much money is being spent, just how far can we go, and to what extent?

‘Say! What a lot of fish there are.’ Yet there they go near and far.
Tuna, sharks and even rhinos too; all sold in a city near you.

Save a fish, save a tiger, save an elephant or two. Here’s what a kid could do
Shout ‘Oh Mr. Mayor in that great big chair, is your city doing its fair share?’

Presidents, queens and kings. Treaties, conferences and other hopeful things.
Hunters, fishers, angry warring foes, and even NGOs.

From here to there, all of them can save that fish, and can keep it from the dish,
But none of them, yes, it’s true. Mr. Mayor none of them, as well as you.

From there to here, from here to there, boys and girls are everywhere
Please save our fish; it’s a simple wish. One fish, two fish, few fish, blue fish.

*By Dr. Suess, 1960.

1On January 5, 2013, one 222 Kg Bluefin tuna sold for $1.76 million in Tokyo. Bluefin tuna stocks worldwide are down 96.4% from historical abundance levels. More than half the world’s Bluefin tuna catch is sold in Japan.

2More than 70 million sharks are killed annually for their fins. The Government of China has stopped serving shark fin soup at all State banquets. Many cities have banned the sale of shark fin soup. Several local restaurant owners successfully challenged a legal ban in Toronto. The City is now appealing the case.

Many sub-species of rhinoceros and tigers are already extinct. More are expected to follow in the next few decades. Their decline is attributed to habitat loss (often for the benefit of urban customers) and slaughter for medicinal and aphrodisiac supplies – sold mostly in Middle Eastern and East Asian stores.

Mayors are powerful partners in efforts to reduce over-consumption of seafood and endangered wildlife products such as tiger and rhinoceros parts – more than 80% of these products are sold in cities; likely the larger the city in a region the greater the relative sales, e.g., Tokyo, Beijing, Riyadh. However as highlighted in the legal challenge against the City of Toronto, the issue is complex. Jurisdictions are not always clear. Mayors need allies, moral suasion, and sustained support for a ‘child’s perspective’. Restaurants in Toronto serving shark fin soup may win their court case but won’t likely win the court of public opinion – the protesting children out front may very well use a Dr. Seuss fish to convey their wish.

Photo:  Blasty Fish, Dr. Seuss character; source, sfgamchick


Dan Hoornweg

Professor and Jeff Boyce Research Chair, University of Ontario Institute of Technology

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