"There's enough on this planet for everyone's needs but not for everyone's greed" - Mahatma Gandhi

Illegal Pacific Tuna Transhipment. 11/14/2012 © Alex Hofford / Greenpeace

For our children to have future income, food and pleasure we need healthy oceans and a healthy fishing industry. We need to create ocean sanctuaries to improve the state of our oceans and our fish populations. We need to vastly improve the way we fish, so it is not wasteful and damaging, but first we urgently need to stop taking fish faster than our oceans can replenish. It’s really simple housekeeping.

Caught Tuna in the Indian Ocean. 04/15/2013 © Jiri Rezac / Greenpeace

But common sense is not working at the moment. There are too many boats, chasing fewer and fewer fish; too much profit and not enough common sense, with business interests overriding scientific expertise and reason.

Here are some facts and figures that may shock you:

The fishing industry now has vessels that can go further, stay longer and catch more, easily out-fishing nature’s ability to replenish fish. Massive ships using state-of-the-art fish-finding sonar can pinpoint schools of fish quickly and accurately. Some vessels are fitted out as giant floating factories – containing fish processing and packing plants, huge freezing systems, and powerful engines to drag enormous fishing gear through the ocean.

Purse Seiner Fishing in the Indian Ocean. 04/15/2013 © Jiri Rezac / Greenpeace

There are some super-sized tuna fishing vessels that can catch up to 3,000 tonnes of fish in just one trip – more than some countries can catch in a year. The largest factory trawler – 144-metre-long Annelies Ilena (ex Atlantic Dawn) – can carry 7,000 tonnes of processed fish in its freezers.

Scientists are warning that this grossly unsustainable approach to fishing is resulting in profound and possibly permanent changes in our oceans. Healthy oceans have a healthy balance of different species, from the plankton and krill that are the base of the food chain for many ocean species, to the top predator fish – each has a part to play to keep the oceans productive.

Unidentified Bait Fish. 10/07/2008 © Greenpeace / Paul Hilton

Populations of top predators are disappearing at a frightening rate:

  • We have lost 99 percent of European eels, and 95 percent of Southern bluefin and Pacific bluefin tunas.
  • Salmon have disappeared from many rivers on both side of the Atlantic, and appear on many national and regional threatened species lists.
  • An increasing number of sharks and rays appear on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species each year.
  • About 80 percent of all the top predatory fish have gone from coastal areas of the North Pacific and North Atlantic.

As these important fish are lost they are replaced by smaller, faster-growing species like plankton-feeding fish and shellfish, leading to potentially irreversible shifts in entire ocean ecosystems.

The changes are no laughing matter – and many experts who warn that the jellyfish recipes from Steven Appleby and Pete Bishop’s cartoon may well become a reality this century unless we fundamentally change the way we treat our oceans.