Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Lament for Canada's Oceans

This weekend I had the pleasure of showing the documentary The End of the Line for a social justice class at Alberta Bible College.  This movie came out several years ago to strong reviews from the likes of Roger Ebert, and happens to prominently feature my honours supervisor, Dr. Jeff Hutchings, along with my ecology professor, Dr. Boris Worm (also of Sharkwater fame), and some other outstanding researchers from Canada and abroad.  The movie focuses on the plight of the world's fisheries, and shows how greed, mismanagement and uninformed consumers have worked together over the past sixty years to decimate our planet's fish stocks, such that historically plentiful fish (like Atlantic cod and bluefin tuna) have been hunted almost to the point of extinction.  Indeed, most of the fish species that we eat have been reduced to 10% of their normal levels, with a projected depletion of all of our fish stocks by 2048.  You can watch the trailer below:

Afterwards I led a discussion on Canada's role in the fisheries.  Unfortunately, Canada is not doing its part, lagging behind both the European Union and America when it comes to labelling fish.  Us consumers cannot make informed choices if we do not know whether our fish are wild caught or farmed, or whether they were caught using sustainable or unsustainable methods.  SeaChoice has put out a card for consumers that let's them know what fish can be safely purchased, but a look at the card shows that we need more information than what the grocery stores are providing.

Furthermore, Canada has failed to protect its oceans from the fisheries, establishing Marine Protected Areas for only 0.5% of its oceans (the global target for 2012 is 20%).  A report in November of 2010 showed that fishing is occurring in 99% of Canada's Marine Protected Areas anyways.

As if this weren't bad enough, Canada is also one of the few nations to have all of its major fish stocks categorized as 'overfished'.  Not even America is this bad with their fisheries.  And this is because America, the EU and Australia have all set Limit Reference Points (defined as when the total biomass of a fish stock is equal to half of the biomass that can be sustainably removed).  Any stock below this Limit Reference Point is considered overfished.  They have also established Target Reference Points, wherein the total biomass of the fish stock is higher than the maximum sustainable yield.  And then they aim for anywhere above their Target Reference Point.  Canada does not set such Reference Points, and it shows.  Our legislation requires us to care for our fish stocks, yet we ignore the advice of the United Nations when it comes to setting Reference Points, and we seem to think that just sheer will alone will cause the fish to bounce back.  This is, of course, ludicrous.

I could go on, but I think Dr. Hutchings can say things better than I ever could.  Below I have embedded a two hour video called a 'Lament for a nation's oceans'.  It was hosted at Simon Fraser University.  Hutchings' talk only encompasses the first half, and is followed by two respondants and a question period.  I think you will find it to be quite eye-opening.  Hutchings' talk gets especially interesting around the 18-minute mark, and remains completely fascinating until the end (around the 63 minute mark).  If you have ever wanted to know how Canada's oceans are doing, this is the talk you need to hear.

Genesis 1:28 reads, 'Rule over the fish in the sea...'  This is the first command the Bible records for humans, and clearly we have been doing a horrible job.  It is time for us to wake up and change our destructive habits, before the fish we love to eat are no more.


Anonymous said...

I truly appreciated the Canadian connection and the conviction it brought. Very well done.

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