Like many of you, I've grown up with a love for our oceans. Annual trips to the New England shore played a large role in this for me; whether it was a lazy day out on the beach, an amazing seafood dinner, or a relaxing sailboat ride without a care in the world. While I may live in Rochester, NY hundreds of miles from the nearest oceanic coastline, I still hold on to my love for the ocean.
Our oceans need our help. Within one lifetime our oceans are more fundamentally changed than in our entire human history. Over the last several decades, the methods in how we catch fish has changed drastically. It has turned into a high-tech industry that can not only fish areas previously unreachable to fishermen, but also catch more fish. We are now using unsustainable fishing methods that are completely destroying the marine habitats that we depend on to give us our fish supply (see the picture to the left of a sea floor destroyed by a bottom trawling net). Because of this, 16 billion pounds of untargeted or unwanted dead and dying fish are tossed back to sea every year. Three quarters of the planet's fishing grounds are either exhausted, depleted or in a dangerous decline. Ninety percent of big fish are already gone since they are given no time to reproduce. Over a quarter of all fisheries in the world have collapsed. Within a few decades, scientists believe that all of the world's fisheries will be in danger of collapse. We are simply taking too many fish out of the water.
Consider the fact that fish is a staple diet for nearly half of all the people on the planet and you can begin to see how big the problem really is.
Humans now pose a threat to every level in the marine food chain. Increased CO2 levels are causing the oceans to acidify. This is making it more difficult for small sea polyps and other sea creatures that are lower on the food chain to create the calcium shells that they need to survive. This has a ripple effect that poses a threat to all other species that depend on them in the middle of the food chain. When you combine this with the fact that we are overfishing larger species of fish, scientists say that without a change in our behavior there is a very real possibility that we will alter our oceans to the point of no return.
This is why organizations like Oceana need our help and support. They are an international organization commited to protecting our oceans around the globe. It isn't all doom and gloom. Fish, when given a chance to recover, do recover. We've seen it happen before in local regions, but it must be done before it is too late. Oceana has helped protect over 16 million square miles from the dangers of bottom trawling in the Pacific and with the United Nations' help they have the cooperation from many international countries who have agreed to these conservation methods.
An important thing to remember is that in many areas around the world, there are already laws that exist that help protect our oceans. Unfortunately it is the enforcement of these laws that is lacking. Oceana works with local governments around the world to find ways to combat these unsustainable ways and come up with realistic approaches to a safer marine environment.
The idea is not to prohibit the catching of fish in any form or to condemn the eating of fish. It is to promote protecting the oceans so that we may continue to enjoy those seafood dinners. So go out for some fresh seafood from a restaurant that promotes sustainability or just enjoy a sweet escape to the ocean that it provides for so many. Then please consider donating to Oceana. They are the biggest advocacy group devoted solely to protecting the oceans that we love.
Thank you for your time and generosity.