It was strange, really. I have never been nervous to see a documentary before (nervous of a documentary!) Strange, because I knew the facts – I knew that we’d been overfishing our oceans. However, I had never actually seen how badly we’d decimated them. My mum called me a few hours prior to seeing the documentary to ask me if I was free for a quick sushi lunch. I explained, calmly, what kind of documentary I was about to watch. Yes, she knew that, she said – but she also knew this might be her last chance to get me to eat sushi.
She was right. The documentary ‘The End of the Line’ has quashed any future sushi yearnings, and rightly so. It was exactly the wake up call I needed and I urge everyone to take the time to go and see it for themselves.
The state of the world’s fisheries is in disarray. Most of the fishing powers that be are not listening to the scientists and their recommended quotas. As a result, sought-after fish populations are dwindling and many are close to crashing. It is estimated that we have over-fished almost 90% of our oceans and that by 2048, there will be no more fish. If it was strictly a game of man versus fish, fish would have no hope. We are at the top of our fishing game and our capacity to fish is immense. With incredibly large nets and high-tech sonar equipment on our side, there is little escape for the fish.
No. More. Fish. In my lifetime? This is crazy!
The documentary’s message was clear – we need to act now. What is comforting, though, is that the power is in our hands, the hands of the consumer. Becoming an informed consumer is the main way we can combat this situation. Arm yourself with the knowledge gleaned from this documentary and with an updated SASSI consumer seafood pocket guide (available here). The guide encourages the consumer to ask the following key questions before purchasing fish from retailers or restaurants: What is it? Where is it from? How was it caught? By doing so, consumers are likely to drive positive changes in the choices of retailers and restaurants, with positive effects on fish populations.
The documentary and the work of numerous dedicated professionals are having great successes and resulting in encouraging changes in the mindsets of retailers and restaurant managers. Combined with public pressure, this has unquestionably led to favourable menu alterations, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Presently, menus world-wide offer endangered fish species as culinary delights. As is stated in the documentary – how can we see this as any different from offering tiger or orangutan burgers?
Although I will be cutting down on sushi outings, I certainly don’t intend on being entirely fish-free. There are sustainable fishing stocks out there. The trick is to support retailers and restaurants that utilise these stocks. Look out for the MSC label on fish products which certifies that the product has come from a sustainable fishery. Additionally, if you are unable to get your hands on a SASSI consumer seafood pocket guide, at least be sure to save the number 079 499 8795 in your phone. SMS the name of any fish in question to this number and you will immediately receive a reply with details about the fish – advising whether you should purchase the fish or alert the authorities.
So perhaps it is not the end of fish and chips for me, but it is certainly the beginning of being an informed, questioning consumer when it comes to my fish choices. I encourage you all to be the same. I would hate for my future children to grow up in a world where oceans are home to only jellyfish and algal blooms.
Jacqui has a B.Sc Honours degree in Zoology from the University of Cape Town and works on scientific and agricultural projects for Tokai-based C4 EcoSolutions. C4 EcoSolutions (Pty) Ltd. provides scientific expertise on large-scale ecological projects, and the management of climate change.