I have been doing some in-depth reading and research on the fishing industry, about the impacts of the current large-scale industrial fishing model on marine ecosystems, and how consumer demand for seafood will increase in line with a rapidly growing human population. I read of the grim 2006 prediction made by a group of highly respected marine scientists, who claimed that if we continued down this path, the ocean would be empty of fish by 2048, in about thirty years’ time, well within mine and many others’ lifetimes (the claim was later refuted after peer review and retracted in 2009).
Scientists now believe the situation may not be as devastating and dire as this but agree continued over-fishing may result in some commonly eaten fish stocks being depleted in the future. I feel a great deal of sadness about this situation, but I believe it is not inevitable, that this outcome is preventable, yet the possibility of it occurring is very real.
I have many questions and concerns, and I must admit, fears. I don’t believe that being alarmist about the situation is an appropriate, nor productive, response. I know the issue of sustainability is being addressed around the world, and governments and industry have strategies in place to monitor and assess fish stocks and amend policy when necessary.
But when I read about fish stocks being depleted, the damage to marine ecosystems, the ocean dying, that fish will disappear (although logically I know this is an impossibility) and there will be nothing left to eat except jellyfish (and plastic), sharks becoming extinct and marine food webs collapsing, it’s difficult to stay positive about the situation.
I worry about the whales and dolphins not having enough to eat because our actions and behaviour are depriving them of their food. I start thinking, have we reached the point of no return? Is it too late for change? Am I responsible, in some small way, for what is happening? Can I change anything, reduce my impact, and make a real difference?
Seafood Free September
I have been thinking about this for a while and the implications are weighing heavily on me. I don’t like the way fish are being indiscriminately harvested from the ocean, in a way that devastates marine ecosystems, with seemingly no awareness of consequences.
I’m concerned that if we don’t act now, it will be too late. I don’t want to be part of the problem. I want to be part of the solution. I have decided to take myself out of the equation. I am staging my own little protest against the current industrial fishing model by giving up seafood.
I may consider eating seafood again if the fishing industry becomes truly sustainable. Eating seafood is good for our health, but most seafood is polluted with mercury and other organic pollutants from industrial activity. It’s a complex, multi-faceted problem requiring commitment, action and sacrifice to solve.
In response to the issues of overfishing, exploitation of ocean resources and destruction of marine life, I am launching a major marine conservation initiative. Seafood Free September is an annual event to raise awareness about the sustainability of the marine environment, but more importantly, encourages all of us to act on these issues now.
Why do we need to act?
Governments can and do legislate against overfishing and destructive fishing practices, but also finance the commercial fishing industry with generous subsidies. Why can’t we implement stricter regulations to give fish stocks time and space to replenish themselves?
We can take matters into our own hands, by making changes in our own lives, changes that reflect our values, understanding, and acceptance of an issue that must be addressed now, not at some vague point in the future.
In a TED interview, oceanographer Sylvia Earle, global ocean ambassador, believes the decision to eat fish or not is a question of necessity versus choice. Seafood in the diet is a necessity for indigenous coastal communities whose sole source of protein is fish.
For most people in the Western world, eating fish is a choice. We don’t need to eat seafood to survive because we have access to a wide range of alternative sources of high-quality protein. We must determine if eating seafood is a necessity or a choice for us.
We are encouraged to eat lower on the marine food chain. But how can we be sure populations of smaller fish like sardines, currently tracking as sustainable, won’t suffer the same fate of over-exploitation in the future, as other commercially valuable species, including tuna, before them? Scientists are studying these fisheries over the long-term to track any potential decline in populations.
Seafood is a source of protein and Omega-3 and tastes good, but other species rely on fish to survive. Phytoplankton feed zooplankton and the small, herbivorous fish, which feed the carnivorous fish, which feed apex predators. Seabirds, including penguins, need fish to feed their young, and whales need krill to produce enough milk to nurse their calves.
We need Omega-3 essential fatty acids in the form of EPA and DHA for heart, brain and nervous system health. But unless prescribed by a medical doctor for a specific purpose, we only need on average 500mg of Omega-3 daily or about 3.5g weekly.
One 213g tin of sustainably fished Fish 4 Ever Wild Alaskan salmon a week will provide that. Are we eating more fish than we need? We can get Omega-3 from a plant-based source – marine algae (where herbivorous and omnivorous fish get their Omega-3).
We must work together to create a new sustainable model for ocean conservation. Please join me by taking the pledge to give up seafood and all products sourced from the marine environment for 30 days in September and raise awareness about the impacts of overfishing on the ocean.
Please invite your family, friends, work colleagues, and communities to help spread the word about the need to protect our marine heritage and the source of all life – the ocean.
© 2016 Environmental Warrior
Photo by Sebastian Pena Lambarri on Unsplash