Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Something Smells Fishy in the Environment Today

Do you anything about the fish on your plate?
How it was fished? What waters it came from?

Maybe you should find out.

The world’s first major documentary about the devastating effect of overfishing premiered at Sundance Film Festival.

The End of the Line
A film by Rupert Murray and narrated by Ted Danson.


Imagine an ocean without fish. Can you envision that in less than 40 years, this is what will happen if we do not stop, think, and act?

The End of the Line is a film based on the acclaimed book by Charles Clover, a British journalist, and shows firsthand the effects of our global love affair with fish as food. Mr. Clover did extensive research on the situation for his book when he discovered that his favorite salmon fishing spot no longer had the normal spring run and he wondered what had happened. He set out to investigate.

The documentary examines, among other things, the imminent extinction of bluefin tuna and the overpopulation of jellyfish. Filmed over two years across the world, this docu-drama is a wake-up call to the world.

"Fishing is one of the most wasteful practices on earth. Every year, more than seven million tons - a tenth of the world's cache goes back over the side dead. This includes hundreds of thousands of turtles, sea birds, sharks, whales, and dolphins."

Mr. Clover says:
"When we look at a piece of fish on our plate, what do we know about that fish? We know it's good for us - we know it's probably got some Omega 3 fatty acids, which are good for all our organ functions; but what else to we know about it - what else to we know about IT? Do we know what species it is? Do we know if it was caught legally or illegally? Or in the waters of some distant country where the inhabitants would have preferred to have caught it themselves?  There is a fishing industry out there, some of which is trying incredibly hard to get it right. And they are not being supported as much as they should be because people are not recognizing the different between what they're doing and what the guys that are just rampantly raping the seas are doing. I think we have to support that part of the fishing industry (the guys that are doing it right)."

The film states that fish farming is not the answer despite attempts to make it less wasteful. Fish farming uses wild fish to feed farmed fish, however more fish are killed than produced. Over 40% of the small fish that are caught in the wild are ground up to feed fish farmed fish. Anchovies, herring, and mackerel would be better eaten than be used to feed farmed salmon and other larger fish.

It would take 12 to 40 billion dollars a year to have and maintain global protected areas that would cover 20% to 30% of the world's oceans. The amount compared to fishery subsidies, which encourage overfishing, is roughy equivalent at around 15 to 30 billion dollars a year. The 12 - 40 billion dollar cost of managing protected areas would contribute to the solution to over fishing and generate about 1 million jobs world-wide.

For consumers, there are guides that identify which fish is better to eat. There are labels that certify a fish's sustainability. What we do when we go to a restaurant or a supermarket actually has a direct affect on marine diversity. At the moment, only a small proportion of the fish we buy comes from a sustainable source. With pressure, things are slowly changing.

We must put pressure on our governments and our politicians. And we as consumers must change our purchasing and our eating habits. We must turn back the clock and keep our fish from disappearing from our oceans forever.

The film points out that this is a relatively simple environmental problem to solve. We just have to start now. Only 3 steps.

1. Ask before you buy. Eat only sustainable seafood.

2. Tell politicians, respect the science, and and cut the fishing fleet.

3. Join the campaign for marine protected areas and responsible fishing.

My additional thoughts:
The End of the Line is a beautiful film, both in footage and in concept. Absolutely stunning.

The opening was shocking to see the brutality of what happens to the fish when they are hauled on board shipping vessels. However, it is the truth and the truth can be very harsh.

Something else that I didn't fully realize was that in 1992, in St. John's, what was the most abundant cod waters on earth was pretty much fished out of existence. There was a forced moratorium on cod fishing putting over 40,000 people out of work. The fishing ban was necessary. The cod numbers to this day, have still not recovered.

I loved it in the film where Charles Clover called up various restaurants after looking at the menu and was asking about the fish. He asked the restaurants what species of fish it was they were serving, where it was caught, and if they knew that it was rare or endangered.

The end of the film has some interesting notations in that it calls out people in the film and notes how they are currently addressing the issues of selling or cooking rare and endangered fish.

If you are into documentaries and are interested in what comes out of our waters and onto our plates, this is a really good movie to watch.  You might even come away from it having learned something.

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