I wonder what or who was on the menu at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations annual Fish Fry held on International Oceans
Day, June 8, in Washington, D.C. Surely not grouper. Tasty fish, to be sure, but like many favorite seafood selections that I knew as a child, grouper have joined cod, redfish, snapper, swordfish, halibut, sharks, tuna, shrimp, and Chesapeake Bay blue crabs and oysters, on a growing list of ocean wildlife whose numbers are in sharp decline owing to our ever-growing appetite for them baked, broiled, poached, stewed, roasted, barbequed and of course, fried.
In our growing appetite for seafood, humans, not great white sharks, have become the planets top predators, able in a few decades to eliminate
about 90 per cent of the oceans large fish species worldwide. We once worried about fearsome man-eating sharks. Now we have to worry about man eating sharks! Millions of sharks are consumed every year as macho meals, as ingredients in shark fin soup, or as the fish in "fish-and-chips." Restaurants do not feature "mammal burgers" or "fried bird" but which of the thousands of kinds of fish are in that fish sandwich or "catch of the day"? And what have the fish been swimming in and eating that we would rather not become a part of us?
Mercury? PCBs? Pesticides? Sewage?
The real catch of the day is that we cannot count on the health of the fish we consume, nor of the oceans they live in. Our health, and theirs, our future, and theirs, are at risk owing to our complacency about taking care of the oceans. Over the years, NOAA, the under-funded and under-appreciated agency of the federal government with principal responsibility for the nations marine interests, has been trying to balance exploitation of the ocean with research, exploration, and care, and much has been accomplished. But, as the recently-released National Ocean Commission Report reveals, much more needs to be done to reverse the alarming decline
of fish, of coral reefs, and other ocean ecosystems; of beaches, marshes, and coastal waters, and even of the once-inaccessible creatures of the deep sea
While NOAA was frying fish on one side of town, CI and five other conservation groups gathered at the National Press Club to focus attention on what can be done to restore health to fish and the oceans they swim in. And, an ocean hero was honored. Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Costa Ricas Minister of the Environment, received the first annual Global Ocean Conservation Award. He was recognized for his lifetime goals of finding the balance for the livelihoods of his countrys fishermen and the livelihoods of the fish in his countrys waters, a model of hope for people and the ocean worldwide.
As never before, there is a chance to act on what is now known about the limits of the ocean to yield wildlife for human consumption. And maybe, as never again.
WANT TO READ MORE?
ARTICLE: The Net Loss of Unsustainable Fishing
ARTICLE: US Moratorium on Fishing
ARTICLE: New Protected Archipelago