Stephen Eades – The collapse in fish stocks is a crime – are you sure you are innocent? – Jan 15

Cod is almost commercially extinct in the western seas of the UK, and not far short of it in the North Sea and eastern seas of the UK. The cod you eat in the chippy comes from Iceland or Norway.

Herring used to be so abundant it was exported worldwide by the UK fishing industry, and around a hundred years ago the stock in the North Sea was estimated at 16 million tonnes. Now it struggles to reach ¼ million tonnes.

The Bluefin tuna stock in the North Sea was once estimated at near 200,000 tonnes, and there were annual competitions held at Scarborough until the 1950s centred on catching trophy-sized “tunny”. Overfishing both of tuna and its food stocks, mackerel and herring, caused the stock to collapse, and it is now virtually extinct in the North Sea. The same scenario is now unfolding in the Mediterranean and elsewhere.

The cod stock off Newfoundland, Canada, used to be the largest in the world — so vast no one believed it could disappear. However over-fishing was relentless and in the 1990s the stock collapsed, falling to 1% of its historic levels. Since then commercial fishing of Newfoundland cod has become extinct, and the stock will likely never recover because the ecological structure which supported it has disappeared with its collapse.

Worldwide the situation is no different. The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) estimates that 50% of all world stocks are fully exploited, whilst 25% are over-exploited and in serious trouble. In the oceans as a whole, 90% of all large predatory fish are now gone. And some scientists believe that by 2050 all of the world’s fish stocks will be facing collapse.

This is effectively a crime against the planet and the natural world — ecocide.

The question is who is to blame? Who is responsible for this crime and its insanity?

The answer to this is important, but not so that we can “put someone in the dock” — there’s no problem finding a “culprit”. The answer is important because, if we know who is responsible, then we can change behaviour and put matters back on the right path.

So who would you blame ?

Would you blame the corporate world which finances the fishing industry, owns all the vessels, and makes all the profit at the expense of both our and the planet’s future ?

Would you blame the governments of the world, from those in the EU who have mismanaged the Common Fisheries Policy, to the government in Canada which “lost” the Newfoundland cod stocks, and the governments like Japan and China that now trawl the Southern Ocean for krill thus threatening a collapse to this pristine ocean’s ecosystem ?

Certainly there would be truth in any of these accusations.

However, have you looked at yourself? Can you say that you are blameless, that you have actually taken action of some positive kind to arrest these acts of marine ecocide? And this is the important point — it is you, all of us acting collectively — whether as an individual, as an ngo, as a political party or in whatever other form — who must bear responsibility because it is we, by what we believe and what we do, that will change things.

Do nothing, and nothing will change. Act, and hope is born. Marinet is speaking to you.


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