Camilla Parke writes:
I must admit that I sat a little uncomfortably through the opening minutes of The End of the Line, the documentary screened on World Oceans Day, in which violent shots of blood drenched waters were interplayed with images of bloated Europeans gorging on sushi. My guilt is not misplaced; as an unquestioning consumer I have contributed to the problem journalist Charles Clover uncovers in this film: the little known damage that overfishing is doing to the world’s oceans. Significant improvements in fishing technology, huge increases in consumer demand and poorly enforced, inadequate quotas have decimated our seas. The impact on biodiversity is alarming: if overfishing continues at its current rate, scientists predict we will be out of most fish by 2048.
The plight of one endangered species in particular – Bluefin tuna – was explored in the film, and the press this week have focused on those retailer and restaurateurs that have (and have not) responded to calls to find more sustainable alternatives. A number of places are getting it right, and have been for some time – Feng Sushi in London’s Borough market has been sustainably sourcing its fish for the last 10 years. But for larger companies, the challenges are more significant.
Japanese restaurant Nobu seem unfazed by petitions from its celebrity diners to remove Bluefin from its menus, content to mention its endangered status on the menu and discretely suggests diners choose an alternative. Others are responding more proactively: Marks and Spencer has committed to only using pole and line caught tuna in its entire range of products; Pret a Manger is making a similar commitment.
Alongside the statistics, one of the most powerful learnings from the film is the fact that it is still possible to reverse the fortune of our oceans – as Clover points out, the answer is ‘not rocket science’. Although one hurdle is the inadequacy of current policy, one of the most important things we can do as consumers is to make more noise. Ask shops and restaurants how fish is sourced, and avoid those that are unsustainable. This really means thinking more and consuming less – a challenge given our love affair with eating fish. But if we don’t want to go hungry in the future, do we really have any other choice?
The photo at the top is borrowed, with thanks, from the End Of The Line website.