How Tourism Can Save Our Oceans
"The fish are getting smaller and smaller." - Giuseppe Di Carlo, WWF Marine Division Director
Shrinking fish are not the only problem. That's what I learned last week at another presentation held at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Fish populations are not being allowed enough time to grow to their full size due to overfishing. At the same time, changes in global temperature averages are encouraging fish species to migrate to areas that are non-native to them, sometimes earning them an invasive position in those bioregions new to them.
Taking a close look at overfishing, we know that large trawlers (ships with enormous nets that scrape the seafloor, capturing everything, especially unwanted sea life AKA "bycatch"). Medium trawlers and small scale fishermen (SSF) are also part of the Mediterranean's fishing industry.
"(A) The coral community and seabed on an untrawled seamount.
(B) The exposed bedrock of a trawled seamount. Both are 1,000–2,000 meters (1094–2188 yards) below the surface."
Trawling is certainly not great for the marine environment, leaving desertified or barren seafloor and killing lots of bycatch. On the other hand, SSF can also be criticized for overfishing and additionally for their potential impact on more biologically diverse marine regions that are typically found in more shallow waters where different environmental "edges" or niches occur.
With a focus on biodiversity, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is working with SSF in the Mediterranean by fostering meetings to inform, educate, and empower the SSF to make their own rules, policies, and decisions for their locales.
Commitments that SSF have to fishing is a persistent challenge, as it is a way of life to them, a seemingly non-negotiable part of their livelihood.
Fishing is what they do, and often, the only thing that they do.
Additional opposition to WWF's efforts also arises when an SSF is operating legally. Following the law seems to instill the sense that continued fishing is permissible because it's not illegal, despite the fish disappearing and shrinking in size.
Features that are most appealing to empowering the SSF to change their current methods to ones that will reduce biodiversity loss is the promise of income and autonomy of decision-making abilities.
Promised income and political power can support an initiative that provides these high-value features. The proposed initiative is "pesca-tourism." Market research has begun to indicate that there is a demand for tourism related to the exploration of fishing practices, history, artisanal seafood tastings, and culture.
What if this solution could empower local municipalities to create more "No Take"/No Fishing zones so that those areas could recover and be used for profitable pesca-tourism?
Croatia has already begun creating such zones.
It's no easy challenge to reduce our fish consumption to reduce overall market demand and subsequently reduce the amount of fishing taking place in our waters around the world.
What solutions do you see possible?