Happily, there have been some responses already to a warning by the World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore. It said in October that three out of four popular seafood species eaten here face extinction unless consumers turn to sustainable sources. The ikan kuning, silver pomfret and the Indian threadfin, along with the Indian mackerel to a lesser degree, are on a list of endangered fish that consumers should avoid or think twice about eating.
It is heartening that, soon after the publication of the 2016 edition of the organisation's Singapore Seafood Guide, a popular nasi lemak stall has decided to offer its coconut rice with the Indian mackerel instead of ikan kuning. Also, nasi padang and Peranakan chefs will participate in a public education exercise to teach Singaporeans how to prepare dishes using responsibly caught seafood. Major seafood suppliers, supermarket chains and customers such as hotels are lending heavyweight support to such efforts. Smaller market players are likely to follow suit once industry leaders set new benchmarks of ecological sustainability. After all, only this is what will preserve supplies - and make consumption and profits possible - in the long run.
However, it is the individual who holds the key ultimately to preventing the extinction of fish species. Understandably, people are attached to certain kinds of seafood because of personal preferences and cultural reasons. This attachment would explain the initially hostile reaction in some quarters to the suggestion of using substitutes. Admittedly, too, not every seafood dish can have its key ingredient replaced without losing its special character. Yet, Singaporeans cannot eat like there is no tomorrow. They are one of the biggest consumers of seafood in the world per capita. Even small conservation efforts today could add up to replenished fish stocks for tomorrow's generation to enjoy.