“For thousands of years, the world’s oceans were a source of legendary abundance. There were simply more fish than humans could ever possibly consume.
Until one day, there weren’t.”
–from Cod is Dead
During the third week of October, 2011, I came across a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal that caught me off guard. It was a PETA ad featuring Sir Paul McCartney and his quote:
“Many years ago, I was fishing, and as I was reeling in the poor fish, I realized, ‘I am killing him, all for the passing pleasure it brings me.’ And something inside me clicked. I realized, as I watched him fight for breath, that his life was as important to him as mine is to me.”
My first reaction? Honestly, it was annoyance that he would equate a fish’s life to human life. But for some reason, his story stayed with me.
Eventually, I came around. Of course a fish’s life is important to a fish. And we humans should respect that.
So when I watched Netflix’ Rotten episode Cod Is Dead, I felt deeply saddened by the way human carelessness has plundered the oceans. In 2015 alone, Americans consumed over 5 billion pounds of seafood.
Cod Is Dead opens with this dire warning:
“The oceans can’t keep up with such demand. Around the world, fish stocks have plummeted and fisheries are crashing.”
In one interview, New Bedford, Massachusetts dock worker Ian Saunders recalled the small fishing-boat operators’ glory days. They ended when he was a boy.
“My father started out as a long liner, catching, like, swordfish. And they fished that out, you know. And then there wasn’t anything left so he went scalloping, and then they fished that out.”
The worst offenders? By far, says Dr. Jonathan Hare of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, they were the foreign “factory boat” fleets that first appeared in the 1960s and 1970s.
The fleets went all over the world, taking as many fish as they could find without regard for the ecosystems they were decimating. Among their favorite fishing grounds were the waters off New Bedford.
By the time they finished, the factory boats had caused the collapse of the local cod, herring and striped-bass populations.
And in spite of the 1978 law that established a 200-mile zone off the U.S. coast reserved for the American fishing industry, foreign fleets continue to plunder the rest of the oceans at will.
I often tell my kids that future generations will wonder how we could have been so arrogant. We’re the generation expending the Earth’s resources, ravaging its seas and killing off its fish.
Think about it. If we found a “lesser life form” on another planet, would we plunder, ravage and destroy that planet to feed ourselves?
Because that’s basically what we’re doing to the undersea world: swooping in like all-powerful aliens to rob it of life — until there is none left.
What’s on your plate? Change starts with us: Let’s stop contributing to this extinction. Let’s stop eating fish!