Let’s be honest, there is not much civil about civilisation. Every animal on this planet has its place in Nature except of course Humans. Most species are somehow interconnected and interdependent in our beautiful and extraordinary world but none more so than fish and humans. Let me explain.
From the earliest dawn of humankind our future has been closely linked to fish. As the first humans migrated out of Africa they followed the coasts and river systems as we began to infect the planet – always staying close to the most accessible source of ‘complete’ protein – fish. We, as mono-gastric animals, like chickens, fish and our pets like cats and dogs – need some ‘complete’ or animal protein in their diet. The cheapest and most readily available animal protein has always been fish. Having emptied our inland and near-land fisheries we then turned to the open seas with more and more technology, aggression and disdain for our eco-systems.
From the earliest net fishermen in southern Spain through the first fishing of the grand banks in the1600’s until its eventual collapse, we have been eating our way down the fish food chain. The arctic krill fishermen of today are reaching and exploiting the end of that line.
Since we have started to destroy our seas (see last months ‘Let them eat fisheries reports’) we are now beginning to determine nothing less than the future of our civilization. Our so called leaders are fiddling with the controls of a system they simply do not understand and do not care about, beyond whether it will deliver votes and secure their salaries and power.
They have promoted un-commercial commercial fishing – where to survive our fishermen have to industrialise and rape the last vestiges of our seas in order to convert the diverse contents of our oceans into human biomass and profit.
That we subsidise this effrontery to common sense with our taxes is a disgrace – were the law of Ecocide to exist as the fifth UN crime against peace (as tirelessly campaigned for by Polly Higgins) many of our politicians and leaders of NGO’s would end up where they belong – in jail.
When the EU’s seas emptied – these so-called leaders diverted the EU’s fleet recapitalization fund into purchasing fishing rights off West Africa and proceeded to empty their seas. These same people were then surprised when the displaced fishermen migrate with their families to Europe to live off a system that has ruined their livelihoods and to buy subsidized fish caught in the waters of their home countries.
As our seas empty – many of the 800 million subsistence fishermen around our global shores will have to migrate to survive and place increasing pressure on our cities and their food structures. Over 75% of our growing population will be urban by 2050 up from 50% juts a few years ago. This massive migration in search of a future and food will at least in part be due to the emptying of our seas.
The environmental migrations of the next 30 years will dwarf the economic migration of the last fifty years. How we handle this migration will determine the future of our civilization. We have seen states collapse in the environmentally hard hit hardest areas, from the fishermen of the west coast of Africa to the populations of Somalia and Eritrea. As these people migrate to neighbouring under resourced countries countries – state failure may well become contagious.
We cannot fix everything at once but we have to start somewhere and where better than the most easily solvable environmental crisis – our seas. We need to abolish the global institutions we currently suffer under – they are the products of post war industrial revolution thinking. We need new institutions and leadership to manage our future in this, the sustainability revolution. The introduction of a global network of national and open water marine reserves under the stewardship of a new global fisheries body would be a start. We can still manage our seas and provide enough, for all, forever. It’s not too late.
Let’s get busy repairing our future.