As humans, we are all afflicted by our tendency to take things for granted once they become routine. This tendency does not necessarily mean that we are completely unaware of the harm we are causing to ourselves and each other, whether purposeful or through involuntary neglect of our environment. It perhaps means that we drown ourselves in the day-to-day rituals of life. It is easier for us to pretend not to bother to consider the potential number of by-catch that happens in making one tuna sandwich that we savour during our work lunchtime.
This constant oblivion is the situation that I find myself in on most days, even though I take pride in calling myself a flexitarian whose diet consists mostly of non-meat options and barely any fish. That is why reminders along the way, like catching a documentary, a webinar or even a short essay on these subjects act as eye-openers which moved me into action.
The latest reminder I had was watching the very controversial Netflix documentary, Seaspiracy, that was going up the charts in the middle of March. Let’s be honest, it was too close for comfort. If you have watched the documentary, you would like this piece written by a marine biologist in response to it.
The director had decided to use his movie to shock people into action and we can say that he has achieved that by making everyone start so many discussions online or in person, whether to condemn or praise it, or simply question some of the claims it makes.
Personally, it made me realize that there are so many things I did not know about how the fishing industry works. The whole fishing mechanism has changed into a convoluted process that involves much more than the classic fisherman and his net, riding on a boat all day.
The movie makes a lot of claims that are widely refuted, or doubted at best, by others privy to the secrets of the field; claims such as how involved the world governments are in perpetuating the current harmful fishing practices by giving out certain subsidies to big fishing companies.
While the movie is still being challenged by fisheries, NGOs and marine scientists alike for its allegations and out of context edits,it achieved the desired effect of making us wonder what steps we need to take to reverse the harm make fishing sustainable.
The good news is that, according to the scientists, we can actually do both if we decide to join the action. How? By helping NGOs accomplish their missions and by requesting governments to be our voice in requiring accountability from those involved in harmful fishing practices.
I believe that making documentaries is essential to our collective awareness. Because they make us pause for a minute to consider alternatives to our current routine. They make us go online after watching them in search of organizations to donate to. They make us consider alternative ingredients to meat and seafood in our recipes to try
once in a while. They make us sit down with loved ones and start a conversation that might make us ask ourselves where we stand in this situation and what we can do to bring change.
When we take a step back and look at the bigger picture, it sounds impossible at first, yet it is feasible. Earth is our only home and it never is too late to start saving it. The same governments that dispense subsidies can, and have, started initiatives such as the Government of Canada’s Ghost Gear Retrieval Initiative which hopes “To identify areas known to have high levels of reported lost fishing gear, and work to remove as much gear from the water as possible.” Some retrieval projects will target clean-ups to areas that are known habitats for species at risk.” among other things. The work does not stop there. There are independent initiatives such as the one from WWF Canada, according to whom, “It’s not too late to bring the ocean back to a state of beauty and bounty. We are working to change the tide, driving protection and sustainable management so the ocean can have a vibrant future. WWF-Canada is advocating for protection in priority regions and working with industry on lasting solutions.” Amongst others are organizations such as Oceanwise, Oceana Canada, Plastic Oceans Canada, and many more.
The first step might not be running into streets, holding all those in charge accountable, or asking people to resign or stop eating animals. It is obviously not sustainable for most of the population, both fisheries and consumers. The first step is for all of us to snap out of that state of semi-consciousness where we are aware of things going on around us, yet we are unable to grasp them. Because from that awareness comes action.
Since the problem is a constant oblivion that removes us by degrees from the urgent matters that need our attention, it can be fixed when we put our collective will to it. We could decide today to stay aware of the issues at hand. Look inwardly at our daily eating and shopping habits, and start making changes that might seem too small to matter. Eventually, we will bring about a positive change in trends, laws and hopefully in climate. We don’t have to wait for tomorrow to move forward. We can start today. Maybe not all of us can do all of these things, but each of us can do one thing, which is a great start.