Have a Fish Free August

On 11 August 2011, in News, by Andrew Bennett

August might appear like any old month this year, but it’s not. In fact, it’s a life-changing earth-moving marine life-saving August, thanks to the Fish Free August initiative. It has taken Facebook by storm, collecting more than 2000 attendees in a very short time, and it’s still growing. Help take a stand for our oceans this month.

“Basically we started it as an attempt to raise awareness about the plight of the oceans. The idea is to give the oceans a break for just a month. Hopefully allowing this to be a once a year thing, only Fish Free February (for the F-alliteration),” Jessica Bonin, one of the founders of the initiative said. “Tim Redpath (co-founder of the initiative) suggested a Fish Free month. We think this is a great idea! So for August we are proposing that everyone has a fish free month. To make it more clear, no fish of any kind for a whole month should be consumed.”

According to Green Facts, fish consumption has undergone major changes in the past four decades. Worldwide per capita fish consumption has increased steadily, from an average of 9.9 kg in the 1960s to 11.5 kg in the 1970s, 12.5 kg in the 1980s, 14.4 kg in the 1990s and reaching 16.4 kg in 2005. The global increase in fish consumption tallies with trends in food consumption in general.

Warming coastal waters have been found to be harmful to coral reefs. Rising acidity may also be dangerous to the creatures that build reefs. Reuters

People are eating more protein

Nutritional standards have shown positive long-term trends, with worldwide increases in the average global calorie supply per person and in the quantity of proteins per person. However, many countries continue to face food shortages and nutrient inadequacies, and major inequalities exist in access to food. The majority of under-nourished people in the world live in Asia and the Pacific, with the highest prevalence of under-nourishment found in Africa.


Aquaculture production is playing an increasing role in satisfying demand for human consumption of fish and fishery products. In the past few years, the major increases in the quantity of fish consumed were due to aquaculture fish production.

An ocean conservation initiative, Pew Charitable Trusts, states that few nations seem willing to make large enough world-scale, ecologically significant open surfaces off-limits to protect ocean systems. Even in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s largest protected areas, only 33 percent is closed to fishing. In most countries, the land protected in terrestrial parks far outstrips the area in marine reserves, and most maritime nations have few or no marine reserves at all.


In addition, overly-acidic ocean waters might have adverse effects on the ability of shell fish to build their shells. Here, Dungeness crabs from a November catch in San Francisco. AFP

People don’t know about our oceans

“It’s amazing how many people are not aware of the state of our oceans,” Bonin continued. “Unfortunately, due to overfishing, pollution, irresponsible fishing of endangered fish, coastal overpopulation and poor ocean governance, our oceans are being depleted at an alarming rate.”

According to PEW there are 23 species of tuna, seven of which are fished commercially, in order to supply sushi, tuna steaks and canned tuna.  Some species of tuna, such as the valuable Atlantic bluefin tuna, are dangerously over-exploited.

PEW also states that scientists and the fishing industry know the deep sea is teeming with life and are slowly discovering ecosystems that are extraordinary in nature, often hosting species found nowhere else on the planet. They have speculated that more than 10 million species may inhabit the deep sea; biodiversity comparable to the world’s richest tropical rainforests.

According to a recent study, some two-thirds of global coastal waters are already being exploited, with most of the remaining one third being in the Arctic and Antarctic. AP

Bottom trawlers destroy ocean beds

Recent advances in bottom trawl technology have made it possible to fish the deep sea’s rugged floors, mountain peaks and canyons. Stronger engines, bigger nets, more precise mapping and advanced navigational and fish-finding electronics have enabled fishing vessels to drag fishing gear across the ocean’s floor as far as 1.2 miles (two kilometres) deep. As a result, fragile deep-sea habitats, which have taken centuries to grow and thrive, are destroyed in hours.

“There are a lot of questions raised as to the effect on subsistence fishermen and the state of their livelihood as a result of a fish standoff.  A few thousand people at first are not going to make a dent on their income, not when they are going to be fishing anyway. Is it a waste? No, we are trying to enter into this with a “bang”. Even though the fish will still be fished throughout August, if we can educate as many people as possible, eventually it will spread and people will start being aware of the fish they are consuming. The ultimate goal is to create sustainable eating, therefore a demand for sustainable fishing.”

The Fish Free month tries to promote fish conscious organisations such as WWF’s Southern Africa Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) who promote sustainable fishing and consumption. “We would like to get as many organisations involved as possible and work alongside them. If we can get enough of a following through this and Fish Free Fridays (no fish in any shape, form or means to be consumed every Friday of every month) we are hoping the demand can force governments and organisations to respond. Just like organic food has come into great demand, so too we hope this will help curb fishing practices. It has to start somewhere and this is our starting point!”

If you have any good vegetarian recipes, please share it on our Green Times Facebook page.

Recent studies indicate that our world’s oceans may be in danger. Not only are CO2 emissions resulting in a rise in ocean water acidity, but overfishing is putting serious pressure on global fisheries. Here, a man in Yemen carrying a swordfish to market in November. Reuters.

From: Green Times Issue 31

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