Journalist explains why we should all stop eating ocean fish

The oceans are being depleted of fish, and the biggest thing we can do to restock the populations is to stop eating fish until the fishing industry is more tightly regulated and fishing becomes more sustainable.

Right now, human exploitation of the high seas is resulting in massive species decline and ecosystem collapse. There simply won’t be enough fish to feed everyone for much longer and if we don’t do something soon numbers will be so weak that there will be zero chance for recovery and zero food for anyone.

That’s right. We are at serious risk of losing a major food resource. The United Nations is already warning that we are witnessing the 6th mass extinction and up to one million species are threatened.

Many of those species live in our oceans, which are critical to our own survival. As the United Nations considers a treaty that would place much of international waters off limits to human exploitation, the fishing industry in the richest nations in the world are racing to seize every last resource in the name of profit.

In an op-ed for The Guardian, journalist George Monbiot warned of the impending disaster and explained how we can intervene to stop it before it’s too late.

“Here, life is collapsing even faster than on land,” Monbiot wrote of the oceans. “The main cause, the UN biodiversity report makes clear, is not plastic. It is not pollution, not climate breakdown, not even the acidification of the ocean. It is fishing. Because commercial fishing is the most important factor, this is the one we talk about least.”

“Huge ships from rich nations mop up the fish surrounding poor nations, depriving hundreds of millions of their major source of protein, while wiping out sharks, tuna, turtles, albatrosses, dolphins and much of the rest of the life of the seas,” he continued. “Coastal fish farming has even greater impacts, as fish and prawns are often fed on entire marine ecosystems: indiscriminate trawlers dredge up everything and mash it into fishmeal.”

He then went on to explain the tactics used by commercial fisheries and governing bodies that are responsible for putting us on the brink of disaster.

“The high seas – in other words, the oceans beyond the 200-mile national limits – are a lawless realm,” Monbiot wrote. “Here fishing ships put out lines of hooks up to 75 miles long, which sweep the sea clean of predators and any other animals that encounter them. But even inshore fisheries are disastrously managed, through a combination of lax rules and a catastrophic failure to enforce them.”

Indeed, regulations mean nothing if nobody enforces them and those who violate them face no consequences. The fact is that governments must become stricter and we humans need to cut back on our seafood consumption, either by not eating it or only serving and eating sustainable seafood, which is what several Australian restaurants are doing to put pressure on the fishing industry there.

As Monbiot went on to point out, just ending commercial fishing in international waters alone would cause fish numbers in coastal fishing territories to rise.

“If commercial fishing were excluded from large areas of the sea, the total catch would be likely, paradoxically, to rise, due to what biologists call the spillover effect,” he wrote. “Fish and shellfish breed and grow to large sizes in the reserves, then spill over into surrounding waters. Where seas have been protected in other parts of the world, catches have grown dramatically. Even if fishing was banned across the entire high seas – as it should be – the world’s fish catch would rise, as the growing populations would migrate into national waters.”

It makes perfect sense. But the fishing industry is greedy and is not willing to wait for guaranteed profits, even if they only have to wait a few years. They are literally willing to fish themselves out of business by overfishing everywhere. And that’s just not sustainable for the oceans or humans.

Billions of people around the globe rely on seafood, but there won’t be any left if commercial fishing isn’t reigned in.

“Until fishing is properly regulated and contained, we should withdraw our consent,” Monbiot concluded. “Save your plastic bags by all means, but if you really want to make a difference, stop eating fish.”

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.

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