Photo by: Stewart
I'm an omnivore, but I do have certain rules around what I consume. For example, I'll never eat anything I've ever had as a pet (although twice I inadvertently ate horse in France and Japan), I won't eat primates or any endangered species, and I prefer not to eat threatened species (but will if necessary to avoid an awkward moment at a dinner party). Or bugs, I won't eat those either. I always thought I was doing pretty good following this code, but admittedly never really taking the time to research the fish I consume.
Until I saw The End of the Line.
The End of the Line, the first major documentary about the catastrophic effect of overfishing our oceans, premiered last week at the Sundance Film Festival. Filmed over two years, the film follows investigative reported Charles Clover, who penned a book with the same title, as he comes face-to-face with celebrity restaurateurs and politicians who dismiss the havoc they are doing to our oceans.
Yeah! to Jamie Oliver who has removed all reference to bluefin tuna from his books after being told of the devastating effect.
Boo! to Nobu, who refuses to remove Chilean sea bass and bluefin tuna from his menus even after repeated requests to do so.
According to an international group of ecologists and economists, "If we continue fishing as we are now, we will see the end of most seafood by 2048." Hi-tech fishing vessels leave it impossible for fish to escape, and the demand for cod in the early 1990's led not only to the decimation of that species off the coast of Newfoundland, but the fishing industry as well.
"Overfishing is the great environmental disaster that people haven't heard about," said film producer George Duffield. "Just last week, a global conference about bluefin tuna stocks saw almost no media coverage in the U.S. We hope this film really sounds the alarm. We can fix this problem starting right now."
Who is responsible? Consumers who continue to buy endangered fish, politicians who blatantly ignore the repeated requests of scientists, fisherman who continuously fish well beyond the set quotas, and the global fishing industry that is dragging its feet in response to an approaching catastrophe.
But this doesn't mean that we need to stop eating fish and frequenting our favorite sushi restaurants. It means that we need to be well-informed and ask questions: where does this fish come from and how was it caught? Make sure the fish is from sustainable fisheries. We also need to reach out to our politicians and let them know how we feel. Let them know we need to reduce and control the number of fishing vessels across the world, protect large areas of the ocean and stop using destructive nets that destroy the ocean floor and its inhabitants.
After viewing the film (tears literally streaming down my face in parts) I vowed to only eat sustainable seafood. We can no longer hunt our fish into extinction.
Ask before you buy: only eat sustainable seafood.
Tell politicians: respect the science, cut the fishing fleet.
Join the campaign: for marine protected areas and responsible fishing.
Lay claim to your piece of the ocean (2 hectares each!)
1 billion people rely on fish as an important source of protein. (www.panda.org)
According to the UNFAO, about 70% of our global fisheries are now being fished close to, already at, or beyond their capacity.
As many as 90% of all the oceans' large fish have been fished out. (www.panda.org)
Government subsidies of over $15 billionn a year play a major role in creating the world's fishing fleets. (www.panda.org)
A Greenpeace report states that 40% of the world's oceans should be placed in natural reserves. (www.msnbc.com)
Japan has caught $6 billion worth of illegal Southern Bluefin tuna over the past 20 years. (www.abc.net.au/)
In 200 tuna long liners set set 1.2 billion hooks catching untold numbers of turtles, seabirds and sharks. (www.ejfoundation.org/page270.html)
15 species of sharks have seen their numbers drop by 50% in the last 20 years. (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/)
Illegal fishing is worth up to $9 billion a year. (www.illegal-fishing.info)
52% of fish stocks are fully exploited. (www.msc.org)