If you are going to start a movement, like I am with ZooFit, Eating Green, Experience Nature, and Conservation Fitness, it’s important to get as much information as possible on the topics you are passionate about. When I started reading “Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change”, I also had another book I had borrowed from the library about the fishing issue, called “A World Without Fish”. This book was overwhelmingly helpful in understanding the complexity involved in saving our seas.
I say “fishing issue” because that is what the book focused on the most, the depletion of fish populations around the world. But notice I didn’t say just “overfishing”. Because, while overfishing is a huge hurdle in the path of ocean conservation, it is more complicated and needs serious consideration before we just charge right in saying “STOP EATING FISH!”. Stop eating fish isn’t going to solve anything.
“A World Without Fish” is actually written for younger readers, about middle school aged, but it did a phenomenal job describing the issue of conservation in the ocean for anyone to understand. But what made the book so poignant to me was the small cartoon story that continued at the beginning of each chapter. The cartoon follows a young girl and her father, who is an ocean conservationist and scientist. They get to travel the world, exploring the beaches, coral reefs, and meet people who rely on fish for their livelihood. As the girl grows, the ocean becomes less and less hospitable. There are less and less options for food, and the effects of losing fish populations and polluting the ocean begins to take its toll. The last segment of the story is the little girl is all grown up with a daughter of her own, and she is discussing the troubling ripple effect on the entire earth from losing all the fish in the ocean. The last cell of the story is the young daughter looking up at her mom and asking “What’s a fish?”
Sadly, we are facing a not too distant future where our children’s children may indeed ask us what a fish is. I do not want to have to answer that. But overfishing isn’t the only issue. It’s an underlying issue. It’s centered around greed and wastefulness of our society. The best answer to our fishing dilemma and ensuring we will all benefit from having plentiful life in the ocean is to support sustainable practices of fishing. That means paying more for quality seafood. It’s healthier for us and healthier for the sea. Yes, saving the seas does involve eating from it.
I’m beginning to sense a strong trend from the many books I’m reading. The trend is “business as usual” isn’t working anymore, but completely eliminating certain elements from our life because it is in dire straits isn’t the answer either. To save honeybees and protect our pollinated produce, eating honey is good for us and for them. To save the rainforest, eat sustainably sourced nuts, coffee, tea, and chocolate. And to save the ocean, we should eat sustainably sourced fish.
It gets even more convoluted than even that though, when it comes to fishing. Many countries have placed restrictions on fishing quotas, a sort of cap and trade. Fisheries buy trade permits which allows them to catch up to a certain amount. But what happens when those fishermen accidentally catch more than they are allowed. To avoid fines, they often dump all the extra fish back into the ocean, wasting millions of tons of fish each year. Even though the heart is in the right place for placing certain restrictions, it doesn’t solve the problem.
Even the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Cards are an example of misguided help. I have been an advocate for the Seafood Watch Cards, especially the phone app, which is free to download, because it is so simple and easy to use. It tells you what is safe to eat, what to be cautious of, and what to avoid. But the problem with labeling certain species of fish as “Bad” and others as “Good” is it doesn’t account for the fisheries that do catch in the most sustainable ways. While it’s a great resource on the go, such as in restaurants, it’s not the best solution. The best method for finding a reliable source of sustainably caught fish is to look for the Marine Stewardship Council, or MSC. The MSC is like the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil, the Certified Organic, and the Rainforest Alliance.
It does cost money to have the Marine Stewardship Council inspect the fisheries, boats, and staff for the most sustainable practices. So, like the organic certification and RSPO, I imagine not every fishery is able to get certified. I have experienced plenty of local fish without the MSC label, but looking for food with that label is a safe bet you are getting the safest fish, and highest quality as well.
Saving the planet and saving our seas is a tough challenge. Not everything is black and white. That’s why I continue to read as much as I can on the subjects that are important to me. The more you know, the more you can understand the complexities our world faces, and the bigger impact you will have.