As land dwellers, we may not have cause to think about what’s going on in our oceans. But the truth is, oceans, and the fish that live there, can help save the planet. No, this doesn’t mean creating a fish superhero, as entertaining as that could be. Rather, it means something far more practical: our oceans provide solutions to very large and complicated problems for Canada and the world.
“Our oceans can, if we invest in them and manage them properly, help take care of us,” says Josh Laughren, Executive Director, Oceana Canada. “It’s a simple equation: Save the oceans, feed the world.”
One of the biggest challenges we face internationally is feeding the world’s population in ways that are sustainable. Our population is growing faster than the supply of arable land, and the U.N. predicts we’ll reach nine billion people by 2050. How do we feed so many, when today one billion people already wake up hungry?
Oceana Canada and Oceana organizations around the world believe that wild seafood is key to addressing the challenge of world hunger. Wild seafood is a renewable resource that requires minimal freshwater to produce, emits little carbon dioxide, uses no arable land and produces a lean protein at a cost-per-pound that is lower than other animal proteins.
Here in Canada, we may not think of fish as our national food, but perhaps fish should be a culinary symbol. Canada has the longest coastline in the world and seafood is an integral part of our culture, history and economy. In 2014, approximately 80,000 Canadians made their living from the fishing industry and we exported $4.9 billion in fish and seafood.
Despite these numbers, Canada could be getting significantly more from our oceans. Since the 1980s, when the world’s wild fish catch peaked, ocean productivity has been declining despite the use of new technology, materials and larger fishing vessels. As the world’s population grows, we are neglecting an important source of protein.
Although many of Canada’s fish species are severely depleted, there is still hope:
“Underwater ecosystems can be forgiving. Fish reproduce at astonishing rates, allowing them to bounce back, as we’ve seen in other parts of the world,” says Laughren. “Internationally, our oceans can, if properly managed, provide nutritious food every day for more than 700 million people. Here in Canada, it can create jobs, foster thriving coastal communities and provide a sustainable resource on which to build our future.”
Our oceans can save us, if we let them. Like all renewable resources, we need to invest in our oceans and manage them carefully so that fish can do what they do best; feed the world.