Fishing for trouble

Cameron Dueck
Cameron Dueck |

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When I am in Hong Kong, I would love to visit a seafood restaurant in one of the outlying islands. Fish is a very important part of the Chinese diet, as it is across Asia.

But now the popularity of fish has become a problem. As a sailor, I have spent time in the China Sea, and few places in the world have as many fishing boats harvesting fish, and they've done it so long and efficiently, it is hurting the ocean.

Asia has some of the biggest fishing fleets in the world, and they travel far and wide in search of fish. This region and its appetite for fish is critical in the global campaign to protect the oceans.

Greenpeace opened a new office in Hong Kong last month, and one of its focuses will be a marine conservation campaign.

In October, a study warned that the fishery industry in the South Pacific will collapse in 25 years due to overfishing, population growth and climate change. That would have a huge impact on a society that relies so heavily on the ocean for their food and income.

Big fish, such as tuna, are in particular danger. Tuna plays a very important role in Japanese cuisine. It is used in popular dishes such as sushi. Atlantic bluefin tuna are a threatened species and have already become extinct in the Black Sea and Caspian Sea.

Last month governments from 48 fishing nations met to reach an agreement to protect the spawning grounds of the Atlantic bluefin in the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean. They failed, although they did take some measures to protect whitetip and hammerhead sharks. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas made a far smaller cut to tuna fishing quotas than scientists said was necessary to protect the species.

Tuna were not the only fish to lose. A US proposal to prohibit the removal of shark fins at sea, a practice known as shark-finning, failed due to an objection by Japan, while Canada and China were some of the countries that objected to laws protecting certain types of sharks.

Governments were afraid the new rules would put too many fishermen out of business.

But we've taken too much, too fast.

Cameron is available to speak to students about environmental and climate change issues. E-mail [email protected]