Henry Gilbey
Cape Cod - 1010.jpg


Henry Gilbey blog

What on earth gives us the right to do this to the oceans ?

Never as long as I live will I understand our (mankind's) overwhelming mantra that to me runs along the lines of "it's there, so we'll have it, and sod the consequences." Why do we seem to assume that as a species we have the right to ruin this wonderful planet ? Why do we seem intent on stripping everything from it until there might well be nothing left ? There is a line in a song by one of all-time favourite bands that has always struck a chord with me, and it goes "humanity is the biggest cancer ever to be seen". What gives us the right as human beings to do what everybody knows is such short-sighted stuff like continuing to do our utmost to empty every single ocean of their fish ? It's pretty depressing to wake up to a headline in The Sunday Times that says "Cod will vanish in 10 years". OK, papers need to sell copies, but it kinda grabs you. I know that last winter for example might well have seen some pretty decent recreational cod fishing in parts of the UK and Ireland, but for how long are we as a race going to live with our heads up our backsides and try to hope that the oceans can magically just continue to produce all the fish we want to eat for ever and ever more ? They're not. We know they're not. A few extra cod that are caught means nothing in the grand scale of things. Surely the powers that be must sometimes look deep within themselves when they're not on show and trying to protect their positions and know that we can't carry on like this, but still they do. We do. When is "The End of the Line" ?

Here are a few highlighted facts from Charles Clover's excellent article from pages 8 and 9 of yesterday's Sunday Times, and I hope I don't get into trouble for quoting them here word for word :

"Three out of four fish species in EU waters are overfished."

"More than 14% are fished beyond safe biological limits."

"1.3m tons of fish in the northeast Atlantic are thrown overboard because they are over-quota, too small or the wrong species."

"In the North Sea between 500,000 and 880,000 tonnes of fish are discarded every year."

"The EU fleet is two to three times the size required to catch the available fishing quotas."

"In large areas of the UK, such as the Firth of Clyde, fish are so depleted that shellfish are the main commercial catch. Scientists call these "fisheries of last resort"."

"A survey of Brussels restaurants by the Fish2fork website showed that at least 26% served one of the three more endangered species."

And how about this staggering fact ? "......people fishing with the most expensive modern technology were landing only 6% of what fishermen with sailing boats did in the 1880s. In 1889, there were up to 15 times as many cod, haddock and halibut in the sea around the UK as there are now."

What this blog post is categorically not about is having a cheap pop at commercial fishermen or the politicians who come up with the (at times) farcical rules and regulations that any sensible human being knows are just mad. I personally believe we are now at the stage with how we behave towards the ocean's fish stocks that it's a matter of ethics, plain and simple. I may well be living in cloud cuckoo land, but surely one day sometime before it's too late, mankind is going to collectively wake up and decide that we don't actually want to be the species that is responsible for irreversibly trashing the oceans to the point where most fish stocks simply can't survive let alone recover. Note that I am not using the word "our". We don't own the oceans and we don't own the fish. What in the hell gives us the right to think that we do ? We might like to think that we do in our naivety, but the way I look at it is that as a species we have been around for very little time on this earth, and I presume that with the way we behave we won't be around for a huge amount longer.

Look at a species of fish like the shark. We kill countless millions of them each year, and mostly for nothing more than their fins, yet these magnificent creatures have been around for god knows much longer than we have and also have had hardly had to evolve because they were so perfect anyway. How on earth can we ethically either do this to sharks or essentially stand by and allow it to happen ? Along we human beings come and do so much harm to the species that I presume there is one day in the not too distant future when many kinds of sharks will simply cease to exist. Jurassic Park might have been a fun film, but we can't bring back extinct species. Why don't we not make them extinct in the first place ?

Mankind is in theory the most intelligent being on this earth yet we bicker and squabble about who owns what and who has the right to rape and pillage the oceans. As a species we are capable of a wide range of emotions. Love, anger, hate, compassion, sympathy, jealousy, guilt, you name it, we can feel it. So why don't we collectively feel guilty about what we are doing to the oceans ? We collectively want to kill every fish that swims to try and feed an ever growing population, and we don't seem to have any collective will to stop until there are literally none left. Imagine the next "intelligent" species looking back at our time here on this earth maybe millions from years from now and cursing us because we were the species that managed to successfully empty the oceans. Where does this collective arrogance come from that because the oceans are there and have fish in them that we can just continue to empty them ? Is it human nature to keep on going until there's nothing left, or do we have it in ourselves to stop this madness ?