Social scientists reveal importance of fish for people in fishing villages
New data reveals that coastal village people eat as much as 15 times more seafood per capita than non-indigenous people.
Village fish from local ocean pastures are key to sustaining village food security and ‘food sovereignty’, that being the privilege to choose what families and villages eat.
Seafood is vital to the people living in coastal villages. It provides them with much more than simple protein and nutrients. Village fish play a major role in ceremonial traditions, forming and sustaining important ties between families and individuals and signifying their spiritual ties to the natural world they are part of.
Around the world fisheries are in cataclysmic collapse and with that collapse amongst the first to suffer most, are naturally those who depend most on fish and have a culture that most commonly uses the least effective, aka low tech, means of catching their all important fish. For ‘village people’ catching fish is not merely about putting nurturing food into the mouths of their children fish keep the entire family and society in touch with nature. The loss of nurture means the loss of nature and culture.
In this study published in PLOS ONE, the researchers defined their study population as being “coastal indigenous peoples”, a group into which they included people with local ethnic ties and who live within 25 kilometers of the seacoast. The communities all share links to marine environments, fish, marine mammals and other living organisms, mainly through fishing.
Seafood consumption and food sovereignty
The study collected sufficient data to estimate that amongst 27 million coastal indigenous people whose data was in the study they consumed 2.1 million metric tonnes of seafood per year. To put this in a more global context the global average per capita consumption of fish is 19 kilograms (41 pounds), the people of the fish villages each consume 74 kilograms (163 pounds). As fisheries decline everywhere such villages are increasingly forced to move from local food to become part of global food systems which dramatically changes the nutritional culture and health of the fish villagers. The cold hard data on fishing villages begins to reveal how important seafood is for coastal indigenous people’s food security. But the researchers state that to understand what fish really mean one must consider their role in providing “food sovereignty,” that is all about not merely having enough food, but being able to choose what a family and a village eats.
Coastal Villages And The Right To Exercise Food Sovereignty
Village people’s relationships with their pastures on land and at sea play an indispensable role in maintaining their cultural identities. But new and ongoing stresses, including collapsing ocean pasture productivity and economic globalization, are threatening indigenous people’s ties to oceans and marine resources around the world.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognizes “the right to the lands, territories and resources which [indigenous people’s] have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.” By all measures of this declaration of rights as it is applied in the terrestrial context this surely also applies to the ocean pastures and fish of the oceans as well. The FAO Small-Scale Fisheries Guidelines supports Indigenous forms of governance and preferential access rights. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has also called for special attention to vulnerable and resource-dependent Indigenous people since climate change is expected to exacerbate stakeholder inequalities.
While coastal indigenous people have lived in close relationship with their ocean pastures for thousands of years and have developed traditional ecological knowledge, they are very vulnerable to large-scale environmental change especially the harm being wrought upon their ocean pastures by the trillion tonnes of CO2 already emitted during the fossil fuel age. The killing of vast ocean pastures by our CO2 is a complex process but can be easily summarized by the fact that high and rising CO2 is making the land of this planet greener. But the health of oceans depends of dust that blows in the wind, the dust provided the most vital mineral micronutrients for its pasture grass, its phytoplankton. The crisis of our CO2 is that ‘More Grass Growing Means Less Dust Blowing’, the drought of dust we have caused is killing ocean pastures around the world. Follow this link to my post on Global Greening.
How long can we treat ignore the oceans as wild places?
The oceans are still kept in a state of limbo by most governments (and pirates), they are taken to be a ‘wild territory’ and ‘no mans land’ where free passage and virtually unrestrained hunting of wild fish takes place. Global treaties, conventions, and management schemes that are used to ‘manage’ ocean resources are really just window dressing for keeping the seas in a their perpetual wild frontier state. The only rule of law on this wild blue yonder frontier is what-ever the seafarers think they can get away with as they practice a catch me if you can behaviour where the mythical notion that a ‘captain’s word is law’ prevails, (such captain’s words are almost always directed to flaunt any and all laws).
The researchers who produced this new database and study state their goal in producing this global-scale overview of indigenous seafood consumption is to begin a conversation about the human dimension of global sustainability. They hope their estimates demonstrate that fisheries management is a human security issue as well as an environmental issue, and that we need to bring social equity into global governance of the oceans.
OK Here’s A Start On The Conversation – Let’s talk about becoming Good Shepherds of our ocean pastures.
A glaring omission in the report is the failure to recognize the nature of village-kind’s historical relationship to their blue territory. Every similar research study of village interaction with the local ecosystems on land begins with the concept of the village pastures. Those pastures, from small garden plots, to much much larger open spaces where livestock are shepherded and cared for by being stewards of the not only the flocks but the grass is something that humankind learned and made part of every village culture 10,000 years ago.
While some small similar agri-cultural efforts have historically taken place with regard to intertidal ocean environments where clam beds or fish ponds might have been or are sustained by good shepherds; the ocean beyond the breaking waves has always been and remains today a place where people have only one intention. Be out there for as little time as possible, hit any wild thing you can lay hands on over the head, and drag it back to land to consume. This precept sustains and denies that the ocean pastures, just like our pastures on land, require our caring good shepherding both in words and deeds.
Walt Whitman the english writer once described the most simple vital understanding about pastures and livestock by saying, “All beef is grass.” That simple wisdom has created and guided good shepherds for 10,000 years. The compelling wisdom, was even appropriated by Jesus Christ who taught social lessons about being a ‘good shepherd.’
I say “All fish is plankton.”
The status of ocean territory management today in the world is that a nation has exclusive control over its ocean territory within 12 miles of shore, beyond that out to a distance of 200 miles lies its ‘exclusive economic zone’ EEZ. Many nations now sell fishing licenses to foreign fishermen who seek to catch, aka hit over the head, the wild fish that reside or pass through a nation’s EEZ, its vital domestic ocean pastures. The cost of such EEZ pasture exploitation licenses has never reflected anything at all with regard to producing funds to care for the ocean pasture, the license is merely the nations share of the wild slaughter. Not a penny has gone back to the ocean pastures to keep them healthy and filled with sustainable populations of livestock, aka fish.
As a result of humanity ignoring oceans pastures and their need for our care, once rich and productive ocean pastures everywhere are becoming desolate lifeless blue deserts. The singular view that humans who go out onto the ocean are tough macho men surely the reason for anything that might be going wrong with the 72% of this planet that is blue is due to those usual suspects, bad over-fishing folk or the ultimate usual suspect ‘climate change.’ This misdirection of blame results in failure with regard to saving to say nothing of restoring ocean pastures.
Just now across the North Pacific declarations of a salmon ocean pasture disaster have been declared in the United States and Japan. The officially declared state of emergency by the US Department of Commerce regarding the Pink Salmon fishery of Alaska, its largest fishery. Hundreds of millions of fish are missing and presumed dead from starvation at sea.
This is the first such national emergency declaration of the New Trump administration. In Japan their large Chum Salmon fishery is reported to be in the same terrible state of collapse. That these two species of salmon of the North Pacific are in such dire state of collapse is revealing as these two species are the principal ‘plankton feeding’, aka pasture grazers of the North Pacific ocean pastures. Their demise proves without doubt that the ‘grass of the ocean pastures’ the phyto-plankton is failing to grow.
We can and must do better.
My call is to just 100 Villages, that’s all it will take to save our world!
My work developing and teaching the practical skills and science of ocean pasture stewardship in partnership with a tiny native village on the islands of Haida Gwaii in the N.E. Pacific has demonstrated that an ocean miracle is near to hand, affordable, and deliverable.
Much of the credit for this miracle belongs to one tiny village of fewer than 800 souls. One village of people with a real belief that they are part of nature. And along with that faith, as a village we have proven the ability to dream the impossible dream and to work to make that dream literally come alive can happen.
We worked to bring back village fish and all marine life not by talking but by becoming learned stewards of our ocean pastures and replenishing and restoring those ocean pastures to health. The numbers and tonnes of fish is beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Not just thousands of fish, hundreds of millions of fish.
It Just Worked!
What if this first village were joined by 99 more.
The answer – together 100 villages can replenish and restore their ocean pastures and our world, your world.
Imagine what 100 caring villages might do. Your village, like our first village partner, can do the same with your ocean pastures. We will teach you how to bring the fish back.
Where will replenishment and restoration of ocean pastures work? Almost everywhere, on all of the world’s seven seas. Some places better than others. If your ocean pastures once had more fish than today don’t imagine that overfishing has been and is the whole problem. Ocean pasture collapse is everywhere, save very near to shore, the far greater problem facing ocean fish.
If you want to continue to receive fish from your sea you must give back and become the ‘good shepherds’ and caring stewards of your ocean pastures.
If just 99 more villages join with us, we will bring village fish back everywhere, as food for our children, as our gift to all life in our Mother Ocean, and as our labour of love on behalf of the rest of the world.
Imagine that within just a few years, your fish came back in abundance equal to the greatest numbers in all of history.