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Oceana Magazine Summer 2012: CEO Note: Need a reason to care for the oceans? Here are a few.

Are you someone who eats food?

Then you have a lot of reasons to care about the oceans. I bet you’ll be surprised by some of them.

If you like seafood, you know you are often eating the last wild animals that regularly appear on your dinner plate. Even if you’re eating farmed salmon, you’re implicitly dining from the ocean’s wild menu, because wild ocean fish are ground up and fed to farmed salmon like dog chow.

So clearly you are someone who has a very good reason to help Oceana restore the oceans to abundance.

But suppose you don’t like seafood?  Suppose you’d always rather have red meat, despite your doctor’s plea that shifting to some fish will benefit your heart, your brain and your waistline? In that case, you don’t have a dogfish in this fight, right?

Wrong.

The oceans are helping to meet humanity’s huge appetite for animal protein. Even in their currently depleted state, oceans play an essential role in feeding people all over the world. Worldwide, wild seafood is as important as are eggs. If the countries of the world are allowed to mismanage their ocean fisheries into continued collapse, then the wild fish in people’s diets will be replaced by meat.

That means that the price of your meat will go up in response to the added demand. OK, suppose you’re a vegetarian, then you don’t have to worry, right?

Wrong.

Higher meat prices mean expanded herds of hundreds of thousands more cattle, pigs, chickens, lambs and other terrestrial livestock. Terrestrial livestock eats grain. In fact, the average steer eats 13 pounds of grain for every pound of meat it provides.

So that means that the livestock necessary to substitute for collapsed ocean fish are a huge new customer for grain, and that will drive up your grain prices. So whether you like doughnuts or dim sum, you should support sensible ocean management.

If you just like water, you have a reason to help stop ocean collapse. Grain production is an enormous demander of irrigation, and hence a big drain on freshwater aquifers. Do you like  unflooded coastal cities and familiar weather cycles? Then an abundant ocean is for you because livestock produces vast amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The core price of food worldwide has spiked upward for the last decade, according to data from IFS International Financial Statistics. Sensible ocean management – scientific quotas, protection of nursery habitat, and reduced bycatch – can make the oceans more productive, permanently.

Fishery managers in the coastal countries of the world need to resist the short-term demands of the big commercial fleets and get these policies in place now. You and I — and the 9 billion people who will be living here in 2050 — need them to get this done before it’s too late.