This issue of Oceana Magazine highlights our new book, The Perfect Protein: How to Save the Oceans and Feed the World. It is a hopeful book that puts Oceana at the forefront of the issue of oceans and food security. The Perfect Protein was published by our friends at Rodale Books, and we were lucky enough to have President Bill Clinton pen the foreword and 21 top chefs provide seafood recipes featuring some of the fish mentioned in the book. I hope you will also go out and buy a copy for yourself and your friends and family. Our website, www.theperfectprotein.org, can help you find where you can get the book. Below are some concluding thoughts from the book that describe how we can save the oceans to feed the world.
We can create a new relationship between ourselves and the creatures of the sea. Until now, our relationship with the animals that feed us has had only two names: farming or hunting. If we are going to rely on them forever as a source of healthy protein for billions of people, the fish in the sea call us to a different relationship—the one called stewardship.
Stewardship demands understanding that something is fully entrusted to one’s care. It’s not the same as ownership. A steward is a manager who is highly ethical and cares what happens in the long run.
So can we be stewards of our oceans? Do we have the practical conditions we need to actually do this for our oceans? If the oceans are legal high seas in which no one is in charge, how can we possibly hope to implement ocean stewardship?
Since the 1980s, coastal nations began establishing two-hundred-nautical-mile exclusive economic zones off their coasts. This means that all fishing in that zone is conducted only under the management rules of the closest coastal nation. These nations set the rules for fishing in their zones just as they do for fishing in their rivers and lakes. Since strong and effective action by the world’s international bodies is rare, the formalization of national control of ocean zones is encouraging. It creates the opportunity to save the ocean country by country. This gives us reason to be hopeful about the future of our wild seafood supply. Those two hundred nautical miles of national waters are the key. That’s because most ocean life dwells in those coastal areas, and they contain 99.9 percent of the planet’s coral reefs.
The three steps for seafood sustainability that we’ve outlined—set scientifically based fishing quotas, reduce bycatch, and protect habitats—are perfectly achievable goals for the nations that control the world’s biggest fisheries. And each nation can interpret these tenets in a way that works for the ecological and cultural uniqueness of the country.
Here’s one of the greatest things about ocean conservation: The ocean is astonishingly fertile. You don’t have to wait a century for that patch of forest to return or spend fantastic sums of money to clean up toxic spills and contaminants. Ocean fish are very resilient creatures. Some of them lay eggs by the millions. You enact and enforce smart fishery policies, and the fish come back. You can see results yourself, in your lifetime. It’s simple and raw and beautiful. If we succeed in saving our oceans—and it’s entirely possible that we will—the marine bounty can be richer than it is now. According to a recent study in Science, if the world’s fisheries were better managed, they could yield up to 40 percent more of the world’s healthiest, most environmentally friendly protein: wild seafood. That would mean that 700 million people could enjoy a nutritious meal each day in 2050, because they would be eating the perfect protein.
It’s a simple proposition. Leave enough fish in the water to renew the next generation and the oceans will reward you. The oceans were the source of all life, and they sustain us today. Those vast waters could provide even more sustenance for us in the future. But first we must meet our potential as good stewards of this blue planet.
For the oceans,
Oceana is grateful for the grants, contributions, and support it has received from dozens of foundations and companies and thousands of individuals. Oceana wishes to thank all of its supporters, especially its founding funders as well as foundations that in 2012 awarded Oceana grants of $500,000 or more: Adessium Foundation, Arcadia Fund, Oak Foundation, Robertson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Sandler Foundation of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund, and VELUX Foundations.