The End of The Line is a documentary film inspired by Charles Glover who initiated a study of aquatic life after noticing a significant decline in the salmon population at a popular fishing spot. He quickly learned that over fishing the ocean is like over planting crops; much is yielded initially, but in time not much re-grows. The harshness of this reality became readily apparent in 1992 when 40,000 fishermen in northern Canada lost their jobs overnight subsequent to a desperate act to eliminate cod from going extinct; what was once the most abundant fish population in the world still remains on the endangered species list despite action taken almost 20 years ago to save the species.
Despite this shocking discovery, humans over-fishing alternative fish species continued until a startling discovery was made in 2001. Fishermen around the globe were reporting decreased fish populations, and yet the world catch reported an increase of fish populations. Almost a year later, after deep investigation, it was discovered that China was reporting false catch numbers; the world catch was in fact decreasing, and we now face serious risk of losing several aquatic species if immediate action is not taken to reduce our impact on aquatic life.
While it is incredibly difficult to calculate an exact number of fish in the sea (after all, they’re constantly moving and they migrate), it’s estimated that the overall fish population has declined nearly 90% in recent decades, and we have a mere 40 or 50 years to take action before several species (like the popular blue-fin tuna) will be entirely extinct.
I said earlier that the ocean seems unstoppable, but humans are an active species that continues to develop equipment making it easier and easier to hunt in the ocean waters. Annually 1.4 billion hooks are set to catch fish (if calculated as one long fishing line, it could circle the earth 550 times). The mouth of the largest net in the world can accommodate thirteen 747 planes. And while we utilize expensive equipment to over-fish the ocean to satiate our stomachs and our greed, poor countries who rely on more traditional means of fishing to feed their families are quite literally starving. Something has to change.
We can’t afford to negotiate with biology, and the ramifications of damaging so many elements of the ecosystem are a fast approaching and frightening reality. The ocean does not require humans to create an ecological balance. The balance existed naturally before humans interfered; it’s the effects of humans over fishing that has caused significant lows and highs in various aquatic species. When one predator is nearly wiped out, another species’ population subsequently escalates creating in some cases what is classified not as an abundance of food, but instead as an oceanic plague. Seventy percent of our planet is covered by the ocean; this is not a percentage we can afford to tamper with. Eliminate enough of the aquatic life in the ocean and we’ll be left with algae, plankton, and worms. Oh, and let’s not forget that increased algae combines with oxygen to form nitrous oxide which floats up and depletes the ozone layer leading to climate change.
Some would argue that farmed fishing is an appropriate solution to over fishing the ocean, but I’m here to tell you otherwise. Forty percent of the world catch is used to feed farmed fish (not people). 5kilo of anchovies is required to produce 1kilo of farmed salmon; any idiot can calculate that this is not sustainable agriculture. Did you know that farmed salmon is fed dye so its flesh will appear pink instead of grey? Wild caught salmon have pink flesh because of the phytochemicals consumed while eating krill in the ocean, but farmed fish rarely, if ever, encounter krill in their diet. Think of that the next time you order salmon.
Despite internationally agreed fishing quotas, endangered species continue to be overfished due primarily to greed. And the hardest part about our greed? Waste and death. Annually, 7 million tons (1/10th of the world catch) is thrown back into the ocean dead (these dead creatures include sea turtles, sea birds, sharks, whales, and dolphins). So what can you do? Of course I’m going to tell you that vegetarian and/or vegan living is the best way to allow the aquatic life in the sea to enjoy living as we do, but I know not all people on the planet can or will give up eating fish. That being said, The End of The Line provides three helpful questions to apply to purchasing and eating fish:
1) Where did my fish come from?
2) How was it caught?
3) Is it an endangered species?
Whole Foods recently implemented a color grading system so consumers can identify whether or not a fish purchase is sustainable. Even Walmart claims to offer sustainable fish species only. If you’re going to eat seafood, seek restaurants that focus on serving only sustainable fish species like Passionfish. Further, you can Click here to link to a web site that will assist you in locating fish-friendly and ecologically-considerate restaurants in your area (if you’re not in America, simply click “Change country” in the top right hand corner of the Fish2Fork home page).
You can also focus on educating others. Sit down to watch The End of The Line and encourage friends, family, and acquaintances to do the same. I admit it can be difficult to watch beautiful, defenseless creatures of the sea losing their lives at the hand of abusive and aggressive humans, but this is a reality we cannot shy away from. The ocean is comprised of these delicate creatures and therein lays the key to the grand ocean’s frailty. The truth is, if the human race were to find itself in a situation where we faced difficultly cultivating the land and had to rely on the ocean, we’ll have already squandered a precious resource if we don’t make important changes now.