A new documentary on circuit in South Africa, The End of the Line, predicts that by 2048 there will be no more seafood available for consumption, as the world’s fish supply has dropped by 90%, unless we do something now.
Currently, the fish on your plate got there by one of these fishing methods:
1. TRAWLING (BAD): Huge nets are dragged across the ocean floor destroying eco-systems to catch as much fish as possible. Tons of by-catch are caught including dolphins, sharks and turtles, which are often killed and thrown overboard. The docci claims that the nets are so huge, they can encapsulate more than 13 747 Boeing planes!
2. LONGLINING (BAD). Lines are dragged behind boats with hooks attached to them, in the hope of catching certain fish – up to 1.4 billion hooks in the ocean every year. The gut is enough to encircle the globe more than 500 times! Often the gut is discarded in the ocean, killing animals like sea lions, turtles and birds by choking and ingestion.
3. POLE & LINE (BEST). A hook-and-line method that tows fishing lines behind or alongside a boat with specific lures for fish. This is a much more accepted, environmentally-conscious method, and it targets specific species of fish rather than destroying habitat or causing by-catch.
4. PURSE SEINING (BAD) A huge net is thrown and fishermen pull the bottom of the netting closed—like a drawstring purse—to gather fish into the center. So much by-catch, and it is not a targeted method at all, catching anything and everything, even though only a certain type of fish is targeted by the fishermen. In the case of blue fin tuna, the fish are hacked and pulled onto the boat, leaving streams of blood behind.
Is fish farming an alternative? Would you say that anything reared in an unnatural environment, cramped conditions, over-feeding and often disease-ridden fish with little access to sunlight is better than the real thing? I would argue no, and the documentary suggests marine reserves as a viable option. This will create interlinking areas of ocean where fishing will be banned and scientists will monitor the well being of the fish stocks and the marine ecosystem. There are challenges to this solution, such as protecting migratory fish and also enforcing the no-fishing policy.
In South Africa, we’re lucky to have the option to do something if we eat fish. I’ve been using the very sassy SASSI (Southern African Sustainable Seafood Service) service since its inception by WWF (World Wildlife Fund). When faced with my choice of fish, I text the name to 079 499 8795 and I get an instant reply telling me if the fish is in the “green”, “orange” or “red” zone. I also keep a small SASSI guide in my wallet to help me make the right choices at fish shops and markets. It’s a fantastic initiative, and I am really glad it’s finally taking off as the power and responsibility for sustainable fishing and seafood is given to you, the consumer.
The movie really is a goodie and I would go so far as to suggest showing it as educational material in schools. It focuses on an argument for sustainability for socio-economic reasons, rather than concentrating on an emotional argument. I think, if change is to happen, this will be the best way to sway consumer and politicians alike… Although, we will have to see.
End of the Line is running nationwide at Nu Metro and Ster Kinekor cinemas this month.
By Roline Bosch