THE fact of the matter is, a staggering 80 per cent of all life on Earth is hidden beneath the waves.
The oceans provide vital sources of protein, energy, minerals and other products of use the world over, mainly through fish. The rolling of the seas creates more than half our oxygen, drives weather systems and natural flows of energy and nutrients around the world.
Scientists predict that if we continue fishing as we do now, we will see the end of most seafood by 2048. Oceans without fish. Imagine meals without seafood. Imagine the global consequences. This is the future if we do not stop, think and act.
Curtailing fishing alone, in my opinion, will not solve this problem. One way of looking at it is to limit the amount of fish and meat we consume. Let's face it: the whole world isn't going to go vegan. The truth is that the majority of people just don't know how to cook any other way. It's just embedded in their minds to slap a piece of meat on the grill.
Vegetarian dishes taste really good; you just need to find out how to prepare them. People just don't value life enough, and how much peace it gives us to watch other forms of life existing, going about their daily routines.
Then, there are the huge fishing corporations. Let's not forget competition. We (humans) are not built biologically for cooperation. Fishing corporations can only measure their success against the misery of another.
Humans are programmed for competition and so we can never expect corporations to work towards equality and fairness. Left to their own devices, humans (and their corporate tribes) will compete with each other to the end, even if this means suicide. In the wild, the basic principle of survival is the externalisation of costs -- basically stealing life from some other creature, be it plant or animal, to be able to survive and multiply one's own species. What is unique about this point in time is that the hunting game is now global.
In the early 1990s, demand for cod off the coast of Newfoundland led to the decimation of the most abundant cod population in the world. Hi-tech fishing vessels left no escape routes for fish populations and farmed fish became a myth. The depletion of fish is a responsibility that lies squarely on consumers who innocently buy endangered fish, politicians who ignore the advice and pleas of scientists, fishermen who break quotas and fish illegally, and the global fishing industry that is slow to react to an impending disaster.
And so, what do we as Malaysians, want from the oceans? Are we content to treat them as essentially a planetary factory farm for inexpensive fish fillets?
Or, do we want something more -- a multifunctional, resilient ecosystem that provides a range of services and a stable reservoir of biodiversity as well as commodities?
R. Murali Rajaratenam, Kuala Lumpur