Biographies of fish for the city: Urban metabolism of Laguna Lake aquaculture


This paper examines the complexities of producing fish for the city and substituting wild with farmed fish. Using the urban metabolism framework and commodity biographies approach, it takes the case of peri-urban aquaculture in Laguna Lake, Philippines and focuses on the metabolic transformations of bighead carp, an introduced lake fish primarily consumed in nearby Metro Manila. Increased lake production of cheap fish like bighead carp did not immediately result in greater urban consumption, which remained limited owing to consumer unfamiliarity and the material characteristics of the fish tied to its production in the lake. By following the fish, the paper tells the story of how bighead carp has been and is being made amenable for urban consumption in Metro Manila’s wet markets, kitchens and fish processing sites. It discusses the material practices associated with the transformation of fish in their displacement through the metaphors of distancing, entanglement, frictions and flows. It argues that particular relations between fish and the aquatic environment materially produce fish that is in turn metabolized in the city through everyday practices that reconstitute fish commodities. These practices show that despite the production of more cheap fish, the substitution of capture fisheries by aquaculture is a messy process that reflects metabolic contradictions that fish materially embody and that have material effects on fish production and consumption.

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Last updated on 08/03/2015