The Dangerous Truth of the Modern Seafood Industry
The ocean may seem like an endless resource; vast, mysterious and without limit. Throughout history, the ocean has provided humankind with massive amounts of fish and other marine creatures to consume, yet the health and biodiversity of our oceans are rapidly declining worldwide. Fortunately there is plenty we can do to help if we take responsibility and make ourselves aware of this issue.
The threats to our seas are often kept out of the public eye for the sake of economic profit, with many large corporations in the seafood industry adopting the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Overfishing, lack of effective management, and human consumption habits are all factors causing a rapid decline in wild fish populations. These aren’t just theories or speculation, either; there is plentiful evidence for the decline of many species of fish. Atlantic populations of halibut and yellowtail flounder are at all-time lows. The reproduction rate of Pacific bluefin tuna is at only four percent of its original size. Up to ninety percent of the world’s fisheries are overexploited, fully exploited, or collapsed.
The fishing industry doesn’t just affect the target fish species. With the use of most types of modern fishing gear, unwanted bycatch and habitat damage are of growing concern. The gear is large, covers extensive area, and is highly unselective – meaning it catches (and often kills) many more animals than just the target species. This bycatch can include sharks, sea turtles, porpoises, dolphins, and even whales.
Many may be curious as to how we got to this point – shouldn’t we have seen all of this happening before it became such a problem? It began with the advent of industrial-scale fishing back in the late 1800’s, and the industry gained such momentum that by the mid-1990’s, the natural fish stocks were unable to keep up with the demand. It’s not too late, but it is time to take ownership of the protection of the sea and its resources.
Pacific Whale Foundation is trying to help. We’ve partnered with the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch Program to provide our all of our guests with up-to-date recommendations for ocean-friendly seafood and sushi. We have free copies of the Hawaii Seafood Watch cards available on all of our PacWhale Eco-Adventures offerings. We also serve only sustainable seafood on our dinner cruises. But we need your support! It can be so easy to feel overwhelmed when we’re faced with an issue of this magnitude, but every little bit adds to the momentum of the ocean conservation movement. So what are some practical steps you can take today to make a difference, whether you’re on vacation or at home?
- Change your shopping habits. Use your dollars to support local fishermen and fisheries that are managed sustainably and use eco-friendly fishing methods. This may require a little research, but these are questions we need to ask. Make sure to bring your reusable bag to the market!
- Start asking questions of the server, or even the manager, when you’re out to eat, and don’t be shy about it! “Where is this halibut from? How did the fishermen catch this ahi?” Are they unsure? The restaurant probably doesn’t source responsibly or make an effort to support sustainable fisheries if they aren’t proud to discuss their sustainably or locally-sourced dishes. Perhaps support an establishment with a different ethos next time.
- Download a Seafood Watch card for your region, or find out if your favorite sushi is sustainable. There’s even a Seafood Watch App for your phone!
Pacific Whale Foundation is proud to partner with Seafood Watch, and we hope that by working together, we can create a brighter future for our children – and hopefully one that includes a variety of fish in the sea.
Seafood Watch(SM) is a registered servicemark of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation.