Most people don’t know very much about fishing. It happens on the high seas, out of sight, and few people think very much about the how the fillets wind up in the grocery store fish counter. It was interesting to listen to a Nov. 2, 2009, interview on Fresh Air, when host Terry Gross spoke with Dr. Daniel Pauly, director of The Sea Around Us Project at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Pauly knows a great deal about fishing, and Ms. Gross knew very little, and that’s what it made the interview so interesting
Dr. Pauly was making a point he has made several times, that the current industrial fisheries are not sustainable. Fleets have increasingly moved into deeper water, and into the waters of places like Antarctica, seeking new supplies of fish. He is critical of fisheries that have been developed on long-lived species, such as Orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus) and Chilean sea bass (Dissostichus eleginoides). Orange roughy live to be 150 years and not mature until they are 30.
“You mean fish live 150 years?” Terry Gross exclaims. Pauly replies that we are eating fish that are older than our grandmothers.
“Wow!” Gross replies. “So it will take a long time for them to replenish?” Her surprise is genuine.
Pauly also made the point that fishing has expanded throughout the world’s oceans, to depths of two miles, and that fish have few refuges from fishing boats and their sophisticated technologies. The removal of large fish, through fishing, disrupted the ocean food web, leading to the proliferation of algae and jelly fish.
Pauly makes a provocative point and I agree with much of what he said. But I also know that he paints with a very broad brush. Coastal communities are interested in sustainable fisheries. But how do we get to that point, when the forces of global capitalism dictate so much of what happens in the volatile world of fishing? I don’t know the answer to this question, but an understanding of these forces, and how they play out locally, is one of the goals of this project.
You can listen to the interview here: