For some reason, the lowly sardine continues get a bad rap in our purportedly food-enlightened world, which is perhaps why it’s not huge news right now that British Columbia’s entire fleet of sardine fishing boats failed to bring back a single fish this season, just because no one could find any. Anywhere. “They’ve given up looking, pulled the plug,” says Lorne Clayton, the executive-director of the Canadian Pacific Sardine Association, a trade association that clearly should have its logo on more T-shirts.
So, what caused the shift from a catch of several thousand metric tons last year — a $32 million wholesale market value between canning and other uses — to zero during the last three months? Clayton thinks the fish are still around, but just didn’t make it to the surface for their annual field trip. A panel of scientists will try to crack the Omega-3 code in December, and meanwhile, the Vancouver Sun notes that this isn’t the first time the oily suckers have gone AWOL: It happened in South Africa, too, just this summer, and sardines disappeared from the waters off the British Columbia coast altogether, from the mid-twenties to the mid-forties. “They are a migratory fish heavily influenced by ocean conditions,” an authority tells the paper. Let’s just hope they aren’t headed anywhere near the Gowanus.