I was better off when I didn’t read the labels.
In those days, I would open a can, say, of sardines, and enjoy the little buggers on crackers with mayo. They were tasty, and I got my Omega III oils without concern. But the age of enlightenment came, and I started reading labels on cans and packages. What a mistake.
I bought a can of bargain sardines at Long’s Drug Store. For 99 cents, I bought $2.50 worth of the little snacks. I was curious, so I studied the label. I found (1) they weren’t called sardines, but baby Herring, (2) they were from Latvia. I should have stopped there.
I went further. I looked up Latvia. I found that the baby Herring business was big in Latvia. In fact, it was the major industry. Furthermore, I found that Latvia, and its neighbor, Estonia, on the Bay of Riga on the Baltic Sea, are limited by treaty to the amount of Herring they can fish each year. Together they can catch only 28,000 tons of fish. That is over a billion tiny fish, yearly.
I should have stopped there. But no. I studied on. On the Internet I found there hundreds of species of fish called sardines. And I found they come from all over the world. I had thought sardines came from Norway, and the Baltic Sea only. And I found that the realm of sardines is bifurcated into the canned world and the fresh world. Fifty species of fish can be canned as sardines. Only one species can be labeled sardines. Others must be labeled with a modifier, such as Norwegian Sardines or Pacific Sardines, or some such. In the realm of fresh fish, any species can be sold as sardines. In fact, Portugal has a Sardine Festival, on which date the Portuguese go nuts over fresh sardines, with stalls along the street selling grilled sardines.
Armed with this knowledge I looked at the other cans in my pantry. The mackerel came from China. One can of sardines came from Thailand, and another from Morocco. Thailand I can understand, its’ being on the Indian Ocean, but Morocco? Morocco is a desert for gosh sakes. Sardines from the Sahara? Unbelievable.
Indeed I was better off before I read the labels. When dining on sardines, it is better to be blissfully ignorant.