There are plenty of articles and commentaries in the news about how our oceans are being trashed, our fish are being depleted, fishermen are raping the seas for profit, species are on the brink of extinction, and how we are over extending the sustainable measures to preserve what little life is left in the oceans. We are killing our planet. To prevent this horrible end to planet ocean, we have enacted Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in various parts of the coast in both the State and Federal levels to save the life in the seas. They are places where commercial fishermen cannot go to harvest their catch. State and Federal Fish and Game officers, and harbor patrol and coast guards, police these areas to make sure they stay untouched and pristine so that life can recover in them and repopulate the oceans for our future generations. That’s what our government tells us and wants us to believe.
However, there is another side to the coin that is not being told to the public. The other side of the argument comes from the fishermen themselves, some of whom have been in the fishing industry for half a decade, and they have NOT experienced the depletion of fish claimed by the Federal and State authorities. That isn’t to say that there is no depletion of fishing, but that it isn’t as bad as officials are claiming.
I had the opportunity to speak with one such fisherman, Paul Teal of Santa Barbara, who has been in the fishing industry for more than 30 years. He can be found every Saturday morning on the harbor in Santa Barbara selling his catch (fish and rock crabs) from 7 am till 10 am. His claim is that all of the “scientific” data and research concerning the health of the ocean and the life within, is NOT being shared by the researchers to the fishermen, but goes only to the government officials enacting laws and policing the MPAs. They are fishing for grants, not fish. When a fishing vessel strays into an MPA, (many if not all commercial vessels are equipped with a VMS or Vessel Monitoring System) they are quickly prosecuted or fined for their violation without having the benefit of knowing what law they are breaking. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse,” they are told. There does not seem to be a conduit of information between the “scientists,” the marine researchers, the Federal and State officials, and the fishermen.
We at Marine Conservation Network believe there should be more bridges between the public, the fishermen, and the governments so that we can all work together to ensure there will be a healthy ocean for our next generations. Sustainability is the responsibility of ALL of us, not just some of us. Education and information needs to be shared globally. For more information and news, stay tuned to MCN and Sustainable Seafood Experience, and subscribe to our newsletter. The power of change is in the hands of our readers and consumers.