Netflix released a new film this month that has forced those who watch it to reflect on what we can do to save our oceans. Bearing in mind that if we continue to reduce fish stock as we are, (eg tuna now down to 3% from 1970s level) there will be no commercial fishing fairly soon, and that if we destroy the fish stocks with fishing and bycatch, whether by line or by trawler, we will destroy our ocean, and life on our planet.
A young couple, only in their twenties, have shone a light on fishing, that I think only the most obtuse people can ignore. Whilst not a documentary, and using some statistics that are relatively old in some cases, articles in “The Conversation” and on the BBC website acknowledge that the premises of the film; over fishing, and the damaging impact of this on the oceans/the climate are principally correct.
The film offers supporting evidence including footage of global leaders such as George Monbiot and Sylvia Earle; interviews of enslaved fisherman; and with leaders of charities such as Sea Shepherd and the Dolphin Project; not to mention horrific scenes of whale and dolphin killing, shark finning and salmon infested with lice and disease.
The killing of 700 dolphins and small whales in Taiji, Japan, every year has always horrified me. I never understood this barbaric behaviour, the torturous death gave me nightmares when I first saw videos of it, to the extent that I warn my family and friends not to watch, as it is too upsetting. The more so because it is so pointless, mammals are destroyed for no purpose other than maybe as scape goats or pest control for the local fishing port plus a few dolphins for marine parks. At least the Faroe Islanders do eat the whales they kill, and can justify it as being no worse than killing 2000 chickens, or killing and eating a fish for dinner. Similar perhaps to shooting and eating a deer or even a cow, sheep or pig, ie if you eat meat you cannot really complain about these Islanders. If you don’t eat meat you will find this footage heart breaking, a whole family of pilot whales are brutally killed (suggest you fast forward to avoid sobbing and flashbacks later).
Whales, pigs, fish, all vertebrates, have a nervous system. They feel pain, experience fear, and have social lives. Many have more acute senses than we have, such as the super sensitive lateral line of fish, sensitive to the slightest vibration in the water. We know this now, and therefore for anyone with an ounce of empathy, you would think would not want to cause pain or fear in this way? Humans in the developed world do not need to eat meat or fish to survive, there are plenty of plant based alternatives to offer fake meat or fish if you miss it and don’t want to eat just plant tasting plants!
The film highlights that fish are the most concentrated source of industrial pollutants on the planet, offering mercury, PCBs, dioxins, plastics, cholesterol and antibiotics, which is all worse in the bigger fish due to bio-concentration (fish eating fish). Even the omega3 fatty acids that are the touted major benefits of fish eating come from the algae they eat, not the fish, so you might as well eat that instead and avoid all those pollutants. (Microalgae Omega 3 EPA & DHA is available from all health food shops and on line). And of course there is absolutely zero nutritional benefit in eating shark fins, which is a tradition that needs rewriting urgently, can deals in the Far East not be celebrated with shark fin flavouring for goodness sake, like chicken pot-noodles do (no chicken in them at all), there’s barely any flavour to imitate? Cutting the fins off sharks and throwing them back in is not just wanton, cruel waste, killing the sharks is killing the ocean and ourselves, so its self-destructive too – how stupid is that?
Seaspiracy claims that fishing is implicated in climate change, that killing fish is killing our coral even more than from over heated water and run off from animal farms, and that shrimp farming in areas that were mangrove swamps, is making flooding and storm damage much worse. Commercial fishing in developing areas that depend on their local fish for their survival is forcing locals to other activities such as piracy (Somalia) and to eating wildlife inland (source of Ebola) and I would say Covid-19 possibly as well! Salmon fishing is not sustainable either – salmon have to be fed more than their weight in smaller fish – and that comes from wild fish and is heavily processed, pointless. Clearly the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), Earth Island, some charities, and many governments are guilty of conflicts of interests and actually there is no such thing as sustainable commercially caught fish.
So what can we do?
Stop buying fish unless we need it to survive (no one in the UK, or the rest of the developed world)
Divert funding from supporting the fishing industry (US$35 billion per year world wide) to supporting fisherman to find alternative employment – even furlough them rather than let this continue and invest in sustainable food production instead.
Object to our tax money going to support the fishing industry, and the dairy and livestock industry while we are on the subject. Support plant based food production instead.
And what can the early years education and care sector take action on after watching this film:
Teach children that fish and mammals can feel, teach children empathy and respect for all life. This is part of providing a sustainable education.
Serve a lot less fish, and ideally no fish, for children to eat. Staff need to role model this.
Find more plant based meals and alternatives for children to eat. Creating this demand will support those farmers, producers, manufacturers and entrepreneurs to find sustainable alternatives for us and for future generations – who will not have access to any fish anyway by around 2048.
Look to the example that vegan day nurseries are already providing.
Raise the subject with your MP – refuse to vote for MPs who want to subsidise fishing and animal farmers – because our children will not have a future if we continue to behave as we are now.
I’ll probably be dead in 35 years, being not far behind Sylvia Earle and David Attenborough, but we need to act now if we want to protect our children and grandchildren.