The globalisation of food markets means there is a huge demand for fish and fish products around the world, and the continued supply of seafood to satisfy all of us depends on clean healthy ocean ecosystems.
Marine life and therefore fishing grounds around the world are at risk as the ecosystems that support fish are impacted by pollution, climate change, over fishing and the destruction of natural habitats in the interests of aquaculture. For example, tropical mangroves that are the nursery for many fish and protect land from coastal erosion, have been destroyed to create shrimp farms. The waters of developing countries are increasingly fished by industrial fleets, which are competing with the traditional small fisheries that have fed local people for centuries. Researchers from University of British Columbia in Canada and the University of Western Australia found that almost 10 per cent of the world’s total catch in the last decade was discarded due to poor fishing practices and inadequate management. Also, as more Arctic ice is melting, previously unfished waters are now being exploited by bottom fishing trawlers which cause destruction by dragging their nets along the sea bed. EU data shows that sustainable fishing is slowing down – with stocks of cod, herring and lobster in waters fished by EU fleets below levels recommended by marine scientists, meaning their very survival is threatened. Also, each year over 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises die across the world after being caught in fishing gear.
But what we can do, on an individual level, to help make change? Friend of the Sea – the international association for the certification of products from sustainable fisheries and aquaculture – has compiled a list of lifestyle choices that can help preserve the oceans for future generations:
Don’t purchase items that exploit marine life
Make informed decisions about which tour companies you use, avoid purchasing souvenirs that exploit marine wildlife. Certain products contribute to the harming of fragile coral reefs and marine populations. Avoid purchasing items such as coral jewelry, tortoiseshell hair accessories and shark products.
Make safe and sustainable seafood choices
To prevent further damage to the aquatic ecosystems that support our fisheries, we all need to ensure the fish we buy comes from sustainable companies who do not deplete fish stocks or damage the environment. Certification of seafood can help support marine conservation and raise the profile of companies committed to sustainable aquaculture and fisheries. The Friend of the Sea label is carried by products from sustainable fisheries and aquaculture that meet the requirements of the Food and Agriculture organisation of the United Nations, so only fish stocks that are not over exploited are certified.
Take care of the beach you surf or tan on
Whether you enjoy diving, surfing, or relaxing on the beach, always clean up after yourself. Explore and appreciate the ocean without interfering with wildlife or removing rocks and coral. Go even further by encouraging others to respect the marine environment or by participating in local beach cleanups.
Support organizations working to protect the ocean
There are many organizations fighting to protect ocean habitats and marine wildlife such as Turtle Island Restoration Network and Shark Stewards. Find a national institution or organization and consider personally contributing with your skills or resources . If you live near the coast, join up with a local branch or group and get involved in projects close to home.
Educate yourself about oceans and marine life
Learning about ocean conservation will help you make choices that protect our planet’s most important resource. You can learn about electing the right public officials that are essential to good ocean policy, buying ocean-friendly products, no visiting Seaworld or similar parks or disposing your waste in an environmentally safe way.