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Feb 2, 2009 07:48 AM

"Live" fish sold in tanks

I was in a Chinatown over the weekend and popped into a store to do some grocery shopping. I was at the seafood section when I saw these tanks full of live fish. I was shocked to see one tank where there were about six fish there with all fish having huge chunks of flesh missing from their body. A couple of them had significant portions of their skeleton exposed. All of the fish were alive (barely). WTF was that? Were the fish diseased? Or were they handled in such a way hunks of flesh were torn off?

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  1. Most likely, the fish were hungry and started to nibble at each other. The same happens to home aquarium fish when they are not fed.

    2 Replies
    1. re: fourunder

      There's a local Asian market where I live (north of Boston) which also has large tanks holding large fish... carp. There are other tanks with each variety of fish in individual tanks, crowded for sure, but I've never seen what you described. There are smaller tanks which hold huge crabs. I can't bring myself to buy any fish in that store. But, the market must have passed some sort of inspection to be able to continue to keep and sell fish like that.

      1. re: fourunder

        It's probably stress, not hunger; fish don't like to be kept in such a small space with so many other fish.

      2. I would report such a thing to the health dept.

        1. I doubt this is what happened to the fish in your grocery store, but it reminded me of this:
          *WARNING* not for sensitive viewers
          [I MEAN IT]

          4 Replies
          1. re: DeppityDawg

            totally. completely. AWESOME!!!

            Im not sure why that would make anyone skwemish?

            1. re: DeppityDawg

              I totally forgot about that video! The clip was pretty wild.

              1. re: DeppityDawg

                That reminds me of a story in Jacques Pepin's autobiography about a time he went to Japan and was served a whole fish deep-fried up to the neck and when it came to the table it was still alive. Everyone eating with him freaked out and he had to cut the head off to put it out of whatever misery it may have been in.

                1. re: ktb615

                  I guess there is no JSPCA? Sometimes seems like they might have a Bizarro-world opposite society for coming up with creative ways to maximize cruelty towards animals. The edible ones, anyway.

              2. This the reason I don't generally buy fish from Chinatown. I've seen too many similar instances with fish that were clearly ill or mutilated.

                1. Yikes! Whether it's cannibalism due to stress or hunger, it's a bit of a turn-off to me. While I'm not in a hurry to give up lobster or crabs at this point in my life, I don't think I'll be ordering live fish any time soon.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    Fish usually start out alive, then somewhere along the line someone kills them and guts them and freezes them and sells them to you. Same thing happens to pork, beef, lamb, etc.

                    But if a store don't keep their live fish well, then of course I also would not buy fish from that store.

                    1. re: PeterL

                      Of course I realize that all fish start out alive. However, I'd rather eat fish that died quicker (perhaps on the boat?) than one whose death was prolonged by keeping them cramped up in a small tank with no food. Now this is a personal decision and by no way I am saying that people who eat live fish at restaurants are barbarians. And I guess it's a bit hypocritical of me to say that I'll still be eating lobsters and crabs. Not that I eat this often, but perhaps I'll get them at Whole Foods instead (even though I find Whole Foods seafood not very good). And for some reason, I don't place things like clams in the same category -- maybe it's because they don't have a "face." But I don't find myself ordering fish anymore from a fish tank in Chinatown anymore.

                      I realize that some people don't care how an animal lives before they are slaughtered for food. But to me, it does matter. The meat I eat at home tends to not be factory-farmed meat. For example, I eat free-range chicken versus Perdue. I buy my beef from a small farm instead of getting it at my local supermarket. This rule is not 100%. I haven't found a good source of grass-fed/organic tripe. I buy my tripe at Chinatown. I've purchased Chinese sausage in Chinatown. And I'm not a stickler about this as when I go out to eat. I don't place any restrictions on my meat sourcing. I'll eat dim sum. I'll eat White Castles. I'll eat at French Laundry. This is a level that I feel comfortable with at the present moment. Who knows? Maybe I'll be a vegetarian in the future. Maybe I'll start eating McDonalds every day. You never know. We are always evolving and changing.