As I type this, I have just finished watching a television program documentary on protecting the world’s declining fish stocks and the dangers of extinction facing many of the ocean’s inhabitants due to overfishing and growing human consumption for seafood. Some interesting and frightening stories and data are emerged as the producers traveled around the world to explore this issue that is affecting the entire planet. Some sub-plots and highlights from the show…
– In Ireland, at a global conference on ocean sustainability, a keynote speaker is talking about the growing number of the world’s fisheries on the verge of collapse. Tuna, swordfish, marlin stocks are at a tenth of the level they were in 1950.
– In Newfoundland (Canada), former cod fishermen are interviewed about the heydays of the 1980’s before the industry suffered a complete collapse in the early 1990’s. Startling statistics show the dramatic drop in landed cod volumes: 380,000 tons in 1986, to just 914 tons in 1995.
– A marine biologist is interviewed, who states that of the world’s total fish supplies, 50% of the species we cannot catch any more, and a further 30% are in clear decline.
– A paper that appeared in the AAAS’s Science Magazine (Nov 2006 issue) concludes that “marine diversity loss is increasingly impairing the ocean’s capacity to provide food, maintain water quality, and recover from perturbations”. Predictions of the world’s oceans facing a total collapse as soon as 2048 if current trends continue. But the authors note that “available data suggest that at this point, these trends are still reversible”.
– According to the FAO, Japan has the highest per capita annual consumption rate of fish, at 65kg per person. Though its interesting to note that as of 2003, China’s total consumption has increased 83% over the previous 10 years (now at 33.8 million tons); over the same time period, Japan’s had declined by 1% (now at 8.3 million tons), and the USA had increased 17% (now at 7 million tons).
– In London, its reported there are over fifty sushi restaurants, most of them successful. The growing demands of previously low fish consuming countries due to trends for healthy food, popularity of Japanese cuisine, etc. are reported as some of the leading reasons for the increased per capita consumption of fish in places such as the UK and China.
– Similar to what you see in Vancouver with the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program, that was created to “help restaurants and their customers make environmentally friendly seafood choices”, the documentary followed the activities of the a fishery in Hastings (UK) as they worked to attain certification from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for their seafood eco-label that recognizes and rewards sustainable fishing. As well, a MSC evaluator is followed to a crab fishery in northern Hokkaido that has seen its catch volumes drop to 59 tons/year after a high of 267 tons just a decade previous, as it tries to become the first Japan-based fishery to gain this MSC status.
A very engaging program that has captured stories from around the world and at different levels, to raise awareness of this ongoing problem that is affecting us all. It stuck me just how wide ranging this issue is and how desperate the situation is in many places and the impact economically it is having on every day people in their lives.
Here locally, I’ve recently learned of Eat BC! – that works to decrease our environmental impact, asking British Columbians to support local growers and suppliers in order to help the environment by reducing carbon footprints (due to shipping/fueling costs of food transportation).
As well, I recently attended the Fourth Annual Farmade event at the University of British Columbia Farm. It was a festival/gathering to create a public forum, provide support and engage people in the discussion on the importance of the need for agricultural sustainability.
As I walked to the farm for the first time, I passed by numerous trees with wild berries. I collected a few big handfuls of them to take home. I was so pleased to see these growing so close by, and I was not the only one who was in the bushes picking them off the trees that lined the road. Funny how I saw the exact same berries in nice plastic packs and from California, on the shelves of my neighborhood grocery store.
On-site, it was great to see the large fenced-in area for the chickens. Growing up, I had a chicken coup in my backyard and can fondly recall going out in the mornings to collect fresh eggs. A decent sized crowd was already there, visiting the various small tables with information on assorted food, sustainability, and environment topics, as well as some speakers and live music entertainers.
Not to leave out the food component, the organizers made sure to have a steady supply of hamburgers (with buckets of freshly picked greens from the farm as toppings) and farm fresh corn.
I hope all of the money collected does go towards helping the future of this farm. Every little bit helps.
UBC Farm has been the subject of rumors of being downsized or replaced entirely to make way for the growing urban development on campus, much to the dismay of the many fans of the farm who value it for creating the bond with the community and teaching about the importance of how our land sustains our lives.
Through all of these bits of information and activities that I’ve taken in, I began to wonder just what affect it really is having on both me, and perhaps our readers as well. Myself, I do my best to buy local. But its probably more for the freshness and sense that I’d like to contribute in my small way to the local producers and economy. As to the more long term effects that it may have, it is probably not front of mind. Probably because the struggles and damage that is being done out there, is not so visible up-close-and-personal in my daily life. But the more I learn and am exposed to, I think my mindset is changing and consciously it will influence my buying/dining decisions. Simply put, its the principle. I do not claim to promise that I will change everything that I do when it comes to choosing the “right” way, but will do my best.
I’d be interested in hearing about your current stance on these issues, efforts you are taking and your current value set when it comes to how much we as beings on this planet should take responsibility for the changes that are happening out there on our farmer’s fields and in our oceans.