Today’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day is going to look a lot different than we expected just a few months ago. With the world reeling from the impacts of COVID-19, and the global lockdowns and social distancing, there won’t be any beach cleanups or marching in the streets. Rather, most of us will mark the anniversary quietly – maybe with a walk in the woods if we’re lucky – or not at all, as we scramble to respond to the immediate threats of the global pandemic.
But, as we care for ourselves, it is important to remember that we must also care for the planet. We will come through this current crisis and, when we do, here are three things that we hope for the world’s oceans and the global fisheries that supply us with vital food and livelihoods:
1. We come to terms with the devastating impacts of overfishing on fish stocks and fishing communities, and learn some lessons from the reduction in fishing pressure during the pandemic. As the global economy has slowed down because of COVID-19, we are seeing that reduced fishing pressure may allow some fish stocks to rebuild significantly, particularly fast-growing species like blue swimming crab and octopus. While it will be important to ramp up the economy and restore fishing sectors as the crisis eases, it will also be vital to figure out how to ensure that stocks stay healthy as fishing pressure climbs again. The worst outcome will be if the stocks are rapidly overfished again, and all the work that improvement projects have done toward sustainability is reversed, taking us right back to our current situation of overfishing and impoverished fishers. Then, all of the pain that fishers and the seafood industry are currently going through will have been for nothing.
2. We work together to gather and share data, and achieve common sustainability goals, as fisheries transcend national borders and international cooperation is critical to maintaining fish stocks. Sound science and effective regional, national, and international management are critical for improving fish stocks, conserving the marine environment, and ensuring a resilient, sustainable supply of seafood around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of international cooperation and sharing of information. That’s why, at SFP, we engage with stakeholders at all levels of the global seafood supply chain to work together to rebuild depleted fish stocks, reduce the environmental impacts of fishing and fish farming, and ensure sustained economic livelihoods for fishing communities worldwide.
3. We understand that the fate of the oceans is related to the most challenging environmental issues of our time – climate change, habitat and species loss, and pollution. Earth’s oceans are teeming with species and ecosystems whose health reflects that of the entire planet. From threats to marine species and ecosystems from pollution and unsustainable fishing, to coastal erosion, coral reef bleaching, and the ever-growing quantities of plastic in the seas, our actions around the world affect our oceans. Everything is connected – a truth we have seen clearly during the current COVID-19 crisis. That is why safeguarding marine environments and conserving marine biodiversity is an essential component of SFP’s work to ensure the sustainability of seafood products around the world. Indeed, it is essential for guaranteeing that fisheries are healthy and productive in the long term.
While many of us are understandably distracted by more immediate concerns on this Earth Day, we ask you to take a minute to remember the importance of protecting the planet, and we hope to emerge from this crisis stronger and more committed than ever to conserving our Earth’s vital marine – and terrestrial – environments.