Co-authored by Brett Jenks
You know that hunger and the oceans are on a collision course when your 89-year-old mother phones you — as Safina’s mom did this morning — and says, “Did you see the article saying that we’re driving seafood extinct? We’d better go get some oysters and some blackfish before they’re all gone!” The irony wasn’t entirely lost on her (she was laughing), but she wasn’t entirely kidding, either. “Get ’em while supplies last” is most people’s first response to scarcity. And when billions of people have the same first thought, disaster is right around the corner.
The United Nations estimates that three billion people rely on fish as an important source of protein, while about 65 percent of the world’s fisheries are overfished. Worse, a new study in Science magazine concludes that humans have so profoundly depleted ocean life, we’re causing mass extinction in the sea. But that study also concludes that establishing protected areas could avert many sea-life extinctions.
Ocean fish depletion haunts the world’s coastal communities, where most people live. It’s as true of Jakarta as of Boston. But protecting specific areas — if done before collapse, and if the areas protected are sufficiently large — can allow fish populations to rebound. Fishing around those reserves can then ensure fish and food. Think of it simply: in order to have continued supply and demand, you need supply. You can’t just take from everywhere; you have to have some places reserved for production. It’s startling that with something as important as hunger, something so basic as food supply still isn’t universally understood.