The Indian Ocean provides the world with a quarter of all tuna. But that generosity can't last forever, especially when there are more and more boats catching fewer fish.
The pattern of overfishing behaviour has been well documented in other oceans, and the Indian Ocean needs ocean sanctuaries now, to head off the catastrophe that lies ahead.
We can make a better future now
Here's the plan – ocean sanctuaries, less fishing and better fishing.
And here's why: the Indian Ocean has historically seen trading ships from many different nations crossing its waters. But the foreign fleets today are not just passing through. They are targeting the Indian Ocean because supplies in their own waters are running out. Vessels from France, Spain, Taiwan, Korea, China, Japan to name just a few are already taking close to 50% of the tuna catch. Sound familiar?
The majority of the foreign fleets also use incredibly destructive methods as well. Ships known as purse seiners set traps for the fish called a "fish aggregating device" or FAD. Fish and marine life collect around things that float or are anchored in the ocean. They use them as shelter, as feeding and breeding stations. The fishing industry has taken that natural behaviour and turned it into a suicide mission. After setting FADs the boats can then simply wait and scoop up everything around it. And that is the key. Sharks, rays, turtles, whales and dolphins and juvenile tuna all get taken as bycatch.
Long-line fishing, which is also common in the Indian Ocean, has similar by-catch problems. Thousands of baited hooks on lines stretching out for kilometres can't possibly produce a targeted and sustainable catch, it just hooks everything.
Click here if all of this sounds like a bad idea and you want to be part of the movement to change it.
Choose best practise
Local fleets from the region are expanding rapidly as well and picking up the destructive techniques and bad habits of the foreign fleets. The local fleets even use driftnets – which have been banned on the high seas by the United Nations because they are so destructive to marine life.
But some local fishermen are showing the way forward in spectacular style. Check out the pole and line fishermen in this video. Read their story and tweet us if you think they are not only seriously cool, but also exactly the kind of industry that we all need to see more of.
Share this video and the toolkits to show how to get your local business to buy from fishermen like those in the Maldives, on what fish you can eat, and how to avoid stolen fish from pirate companies.