Loss of The Marine World

I didn’t like fish much as a child.  I didn’t really like them to look at and I didn’t like them to eat.  They seemed so alien in appearance, and too bony for consumption.  That changed; one as my taste changed, and one with the experience of scuba diving.  Fish still seem alien under the water, but in their natural habitat they also seem exciting, interesting, free, independent… not like the ones I remember, gasping gormlessly at the glass, during a visit to a aquarium when I was a child.

Perhaps it is these negative associations with fish that make us so more uninspired when it comes to empathising with their fate.  Maybe it is also the fact that most of us are even more removed from the fish we eat than from the meat on our plate.  Judith Jarvis Thompson wrote about a change she believed would take place in our approach to abortions if we could see babies through glass wombs.  There has to be some truth in this: if we cannot see something, it is much easier not to care about it.  Children who have not seen a cow are unlikely to become vegetarians, as people who do not know the huge, necessitous value of the stock of our oceans will not be easily moved to stop buying unsustainable fish.  Maybe there is one other problem: that our concept of the sea is still one that claims ‘there are plenty more fish…’  In fact, someone said this to me recently, and I had to reply with ‘no, there are not’.  As it happens, of course, his remark was analogous to human males, and, as the human population continues to rack up its numbers, it is true to say ‘there are plenty more humans in the world’, but the saying ‘plenty more fish in the sea’ is becoming nothing more than a barefaced lie.

In 2009 the film The End of the Line warned us that, if things carried on the way they were, we would have fished most big fish stocks to extinction by 2048, but last week the front page of the Independent warned us that things are far worse than this.  I think that this is the first time I have seen the words ‘Mass Extinction’ in the subheading of a news paper, and it certainly seems likely that the mass extinction that is rolling to a start on land will be preceded by mass extinction in the ocean.  Yet, most of us don’t seem to care about the oceans.  It’s a worrying phenomenon but, possibly for one of the reasons listed above, (or just due to sheer ignorance/apathy/arrogance – take your pick), the threat of extinction in the seas just does not seem to get us stirring to arms, certainly not to the level of response the problem merits.  Maybe it really is because we are so alienated, so removed from what goes on in the sea, that it seems disconnected from us.  But it is not. The poised mass extinction in the seas is attributed back to human means: climate change, industrial fishing, toxins, nutrient run off from farming, floating land masses worth of tiny plastics – these are the things that have put the seas on the brink of mass extinction.   

Soon, it seems, our connectedness with the oceans will be something we will no longer be able to deny.  One billion people rely on fish as a food source.  We are facing famines in regions of the world where food should be bountiful – by the sea.  The oceans are also responsible for 50% of the oxygen we breathe in the atmosphere.  If we complete our foolhardy missions to destroy huge parts of the seas’ ecosystems, our puny attempts to slow climate change will have been thwarted by our destruction of the world’s oceans.  In short, we are on the brink of a catastrophe, and yet, we still seem to be ignoring it.  It’s a message we need to get out fast, that needs to be spread from person to person, and its a topic I will be covering in more detail in the future: because the ocean hosts an oceans worth of ecological problems.

For now, if you haven’t watched The End of the Line film, I urge you to do so.  Click here for the trailer.  Greenpeace are hosting a petition to make 40% of the worlds oceans designated marine reserves which they would love you to sign.  And, they also host a Red List of fish that are at high risk of being fished from unsustainable sources.  Some of these problems are certainly not very easy to solve, but as consumers, we can send the message out that we do not want to eat fish that are are unsustainable.

About EcoTheme

Welcome to EcoTheme. I’m from the the county of Dorset in the South West of England. Having studied environmental ethics and written a Masters dissertation on the ethics of sustainable living I now work with Campaign against Climate Change and Greenpeace. I started EcoTheme to present discussion and views on things going on in the environmental world. It should become clear through my posts that I believe our environmental problems to be the most pressing matters of the day – not simply because I place value in our natural world but also because it is the platform on which all life depends.
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3 Responses to Loss of The Marine World

  1. Charli Mortimer says:

    On the subject of insubstantial arguments and myths of the sea I encountered a classic misconception in a bar in Malaysia last night. Tired of simply walking out of restaurants at the first sight of “shark fin” on the menu I decided to talk to the manager to find out exactly why they are marketing this irresponsible and quite frankly, barbaric meal as a charming appetizer. His response was “people like to eat sharks because they make us strong”. Yes, they’re strong. Sharks are incredible animals. They’ve been on the planet for over 400 million years, which makes them highly evolved, successful predators and yet they’re not strong enough to survive over-fishing and shark finning; human practices with dire consequences.

    Shark finning takes place at sea so that fishermen don’t have to carry the bulky body of the shark back to shore hence they can transport more fins. More fins means more money. Shark finning is a multi- billion dollar industry with one pound of dried shark fin fetching up to £200. Once the fins are cut the shark will be thrown back into the ocean. With no fins the shark is incapable of movement and it will sink to the seabed where it will most likely bleed to death or be eaten alive.

    Shark populations cannot replenish because of the rate that we take them from the ocean.
    Fishermen that practice shark finning do not differentiate between the old and the young, all are taken including sharks that haven’t had the opportunity to reproduce. That means that right now the numbers are declining and they will not recover unless we make a change. Anyone can do this! Consumers are a driving force for change. If you decide not to eat in a restaurant because they have shark fin on the menu, tell the staff! Make it known that it is not acceptable to support a practice that has horrific implications for an entire species and arguably for the future of mankind. If you do this, others will too. A restaurant will not survive if it doesn’t have any customers! If we reduce the demand for shark fins then the practice will not continue so please, learn more about sharks! Watch the Sharkwater documentary and see these beautiful creatures in action. Stand up and make a difference, turn your eyes to the Ocean and help keep shark strong for years to come.


  2. EcoTheme says:

    Thanks, Charli. Good links. Sharks feature on the Red List from Greenpeace that I posted.

    Shark finning if definitely one of the issues I was referring to when I said there were many more issues to be discussed.

    I wonder where these people think their strength will come from when there are no sharks left, to be either eaten, or admired in the proper way. But I suppose, rather like the ‘plenty more fish in the sea’ fallacy, they wouldn’t believe you if you told that that was the danger.

  3. EcoTheme says:

    Good news today: the Bahamas have voted for a ban on shark fishing in their territorial waters.

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