Carte Blanche on fish depletion

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Posted on 10th October 2010 by admin in News

Tonight on Carte Blache (19h00), channel 101 (110 – HD), there is going to be a discussion around the depletion of fish in our ocean.

95% of our fish are already being targetted and it is said that in 40 years time, there is a good chance that there will be no more fish. This is a resource that humans and animals have fed on for decades and it’s crucial that we all take notice of what’s going on – awareness can help!

Imagine an ocean with no fish? Seriously, sit there and think about it for a moment.

The End of The Line is an excellent documentary about what’s happening with all our fish. It has been released on DVD if you’re interested in getting a copy, make sure you click the link and visit their website. Here’s a teaser:

Here is the transcript from the show:

[The End of the Line] Prof Danil Pauly: ‘Lots of the people say, ‘Where are all the fish?’ 90% of the fish are gone! ‘Where are they?’ We have eaten them.’

Annika Larsen (Carte Blanche presenter): ‘Imagine an ocean in 40 year’s time without fish, your meals without seafood; imagine the global consequences. The ‘End of the Line’ is a dramatic film about the crisis in our oceans.’

[The End of the Line] Charles Clover: ‘Trawling with a bean trawler was like ploughing a field seven times a year. And I am a farmer’s son and I thought to myself, ‘How many crops would grow if you ploughed that field seven times a year,’ and I thought, ‘Not very many at all.’ And that changed my whole view of what was going on in the sea.’

Author and journalist Charles Clover wrote the book ‘The End of the Line’, which Director Rupert Murray made into a documentary; it had a massive impact on its release in the United Kingdom. Clover was in Cape Town to promote the film.

Charles (Author & Journalist): ‘I think what most of the world’s fishery scientists accept is that sometime in the middle decades of this century we will have chased down most of the world’s commercial fish species by 90% of their former profusion. Already we are 30% of the way there; it’s not inconceivable that we will do this as human population grows and as the pressure on the resource grows with it. So, by the middle of the century we could have wiped out most of the world’s commercial stocks of wild fish.’

Clover says that until recently we viewed the ocean as an inexhaustible food supply, but over the last century high-tech fishing vessels have hunted down too few fish. Coupled with the increasing demand for fish as a healthy food source, many species have been brought to the brink of extinction.

[The End of the Line] Global fishing capacity could catch the world catch four times over. A mouth of the largest trawling net in the world is big enough to accommodate thirteen 747s.

Annika: ”The End of the Line’ is filled with the most astounding statistics. The long line fishing industry puts out 1.4 billion hooks into our ocean every year – that’s enough fishing line to circle the earth 550 times.’

[The End of the Line] Fishing is one of the most wasteful practices on earth, every year more than seven million tons – a tenth of the world catch – goes back over the side dead. This includes hundreds of thousands of turtles, seabirds, whales and dolphins.

Blue Fin Tuna have been hunted to the brink of extinction, Cod stocks in Newfoundland have totally collapsed, coral reefs in South East Asia have been stripped, and massive netting off the coast of West Africa has decimated fish stocks. These extreme examples are used to highlight the crisis in our oceans. With dwindling fish stocks of some of the more popular fish like Salmon and Blue Fin Tuna, fish farming was seen as a possible solution. But it uses wild fish to feed farmed fish and kills more than it produces.

Charles: ‘This is the great contradiction that people don’t understand, is they think they are doing the right thing by eating farmed fish. But in fact the farming of carnivorous fish is just driving the over-fishing cycle twice as much because you have to catch lots of small fish – which are even less well managed than the fish you’ve eaten on your plate – to feed the farmed fish at a conversion rate, well – Atlantic salmon takes five pounds of little fish to produce one pound of farmed salmon, which is crazy. And with the Blue Fin Tuna, which, believe it or not, people are trying to farm it’s something like 21 pounds to one pound of Blue Fin Tuna. Is that ethical? Is that sustainable? Of course it isn’t.’

Dr Samantha Petersen from the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative of the WWF says that another of our favourite sushi choices, farmed salmon, is also not environmentally friendly.

Dr Samantha Petersen (SASSI): ‘Another key concern is that they actually suffer from a parasite, from a lice, and that farmed salmon have very high numbers of these lice. Now in a farmed situation they can be managed but because they are in open ocean cages the last wild salmon swimming past these cages are becoming infected.’

Charles: ‘1.2 billion people I think it is depend on fish for a very large part of their diet. That number of people is going to go up necessarily because we are going to have more people; we’re going to have one-and-half times that number of people by the middle of the century. So fish is a food security issue and nobody talks about it like that, but it is.’

One of the more disturbing points made in the documentary is that if we don’t curb the current fishing trend and continue to remove the predators from the food chain there will be nothing left in the ocean except Jelly fish and worms. Professor Daniel Pauly and Professor Callum Roberts are leading scientists in global fishing.

[The End of the Line] Prof Pauly: ‘Everywhere we have removed the fish, the large fish in many places. What has exploded is the shrimp, shrimp have exploded. It good… good money, but if you overfish them, what then?’

[The End of the Line] Prof Callum Roberts (Cork University, UK): ‘The end point is when the prawns and the scallops too have gone; we really will be down to a highly simplified system of mud and worms.’

Alarmingly, overfishing also affects climate change.

Charles : ‘Fish pooh and funnily enough whale pooh ties down carbon dioxide, it soaks it up and so the more fish in the sea, the more the ocean is capable of being a carbon sink.’

What’s happening in our own, South African waters? Professor Colin Attwood is a Marine biologist at the University of Cape Town and has been studying fish data going back the last 100 years.

Prof Colin Attwood (Marine Biologist, UCT): ‘In some cases it is dramatic; there are some species, like in the case of ’74, which most people will know about, but also red Steenbras, Daggaraad silver cob, Geelbek catches of which were very prolific around the early part of the 1900s, which have dwindled substantially over the course of that century.’

But are we in as much of a crisis as the North?

Prof Attwood: ‘We have been able to learn from the North Pacific and the mistakes that they have made we have, we clearly don’t want to make them ourselves. We are right now in the process of changing the way these fisheries are managed; we are trying to reduce effects. I don’t believe for a moment that is going to be the case in South Africa. I think we have got a fairly solid scientific community that is studying it and we have got a fairly good management system in place.’

The message is it doesn’t have to be the of end of the line, it is not too late.

Charles: ‘We can do more about it than global warming. I don’t see us getting all that carbon out of the atmosphere, but if you stop overfishing it all comes back rather quickly and if you create marine reserves you safe guard some of that biodiversity. And if you eat responsibly you can help to drive those trends.’

What did our local scientists think about it?

Dr Petersen: ‘Many conservation stories leave you feeling totally despaired and the good news about this is that it is not too late and we can do something about it. And hopefully the SASSI pocket card will help consumers to make those informed choices to create the incentives to drive responsible fishing.’

Prof Attwood: ‘The movie was trying to make a point and it looked selectively at some really bad examples around the world. They covered it fairly comprehensively, looking at solutions, they also interviewed some of the top scientists – people like Ray Hill, Boris Worm, they have been at the forefront of fisheries research.’

The success of the film has changed Charles Clover’s life.

Charles: ‘Suddenly you realise that what you are doing actually matters. We showed the film to a major donor and he has agreed – through a little charity we set up – to fund the creation of the biggest marine reserve in the world. And that is going to protect half the untouched coral reefs in the Indian ocean. So that is a very major deal and that would not have happened if this guy hadn’t seen The End of the Line.’

Only one percent of the world’s oceans are protected by marine reserves. South Africa has 19 and they have had a major impact on protecting our fish stocks.

Another target has been celebrity chefs. Jamie Oliver, who is exposed in the film for using Blue Fin Tuna, as well as many other celebrity chefs, have taken Blue Fin Tuna off their menus.
What impact have local environmental groups like SASSI and environmentally sussed consumers had on local restaurants? Well, Ocean Basket is one of the biggest chains of fish restaurants with over one million customers through its doors each month. It became SASSI accredited last year and committed to reducing the number of fish on the orange list from the menu. What progress they had made?
Manny Nichas (CEO: Ocean Basket): ‘We have ensured that the supplies that we do have from farms oversees are certified with all the necessary certification, they are MSC compliant and a lot of work has been done by our major suppliers overseas on the prawn side to ensure that they have all the necessary accreditations in place.’

The End of the Line makes the point that the oceans belong to all of us, and so we can’t just blame government and fishermen: as consumers we drive those trends.

Dr Petersen: ‘Five years ago when we released the list Kingklip was on our Orange list and that was because the species was on the brink of collapse. As a result of consumer pressure and consumer awareness there has been some fantastic changes that have happened in that fishery. A closed area has been brought in around the spawning grounds of Kingklip and we are starting to see the first signs of recovery in the Kingklip population.’

Annika: ‘The inspiring thing about this film is that it is not all doom and gloom and you don’t need to be a Greenpeace activist to do something about the problem, just keep on asking questions and put your money where your mouth is.’

Annika: ‘Do you still eat fish?’

Charles : ‘I do. I have got to know where it came from, how it was caught and how the stock is managed before I can really make a decision to put it on my plate.’

Is you have any more information on what’s going on, over and above what Carte Blache discusses, please feel free to leave a comment and let’s discuss it.

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