Last week, Oceana senior advisor Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, spoke to several audiences in Spain about how we can save the oceans to feed the world. It is a message we must share with anyone who will listen (and many who still refuse to).
There are 7 billion people on the planet, and the UN estimates that number will reach 9 billion by 2050.
What animal protein requires no fresh water, produces little carbon dioxide, doesn’t use up any arable land, and provides healthy, lean protein at a cost per pound lower than beef, chicken, lamb or pork, making it accessible to the world’s poor?
Roughly one billion people, many of them poor, already depend upon fish as a primary source of animal protein. But if we want to keep feeding an ever-growing population, we are going to have to save our oceans.
Global fish stocks have been declining since the 1980’s and 90% of the large ocean predators are gone. The world’s fleet is 2.5 times bigger than is appropriate to fish responsibly and 90% of the world’s fish stocks are fully exploited, overexploited, or depleted.
So, how do we do it? How can we reverse the damage we’ve caused and help feed billions? We must act. If we wait too long, the losses may be irreversible, but if we react in time, the oceans have an enormous capacity to respond.
There is a fairly straightforward formula for success, and it is one we have been pushing for since we started working in Europe over a decade ago:
• Establish responsible fishing limits that are based on scientific advice;
• Reduce bycatch; and
• Protect important marine habitats.
What’s even better is that a huge amount of catches occur in European waters (and by our fleets), so if we can make a change here, think of the ripple effect that would happen. The reform of the Common Fisheries Policy was a major step in the right direction, but our work is not over.
Environmental protection is not incompatible with fighting hunger; on the contrary, it is more closely linked than many would like to admit. But if our objective is to maximize profits, we will only have food for today and hunger for tomorrow. It’s time to look at the long term.