My “ah-ha” moment

What I did hear was a lot of scientists, fishermen and policy makers talking about their findings – that fish stocks are still being depleted, that illegal fishing practices continue to happen despite best efforts, that there are still disagreements between science and industry between the status of certain species. I even heard a French fishmonger describe how saddened he was by the fact that he is being told he can no longer offer his customers the same fish that his family-owned business has been selling for generations – and how he was tired of being perceived as the bad guy. Needless to say, I was beginning to feel like I was one of the poor souls on the Titanic who knew they weren’t going to make it to a lifeboat. It sounded to me that fish stocks would collapse no matter what we do because people don’t want to listen to the scientific proof or they just don’t care to. That fisheries reform hits the pockets of industry too hard, and that the general public isn’t keen pay a premium for more sustainable food choices. It was depressing.

(c) Stacey McCarthy/WWF-Canada
Okay, maybe I am painting the picture a bit bleak (I do have a flare for the dramatic though). There were some encouraging moments over the three days as well. I learned that chefs care more about sourcing sustainable seafood products for their restaurants and feel it is their duty to educate the consumer on why it should be eaten. That there are cooking schools who are educating the next generation of chefs and fishmongers on the importance of sourcing all of their food from sustainable sources. I learned about corporations, such as Patagonia, that are changing the way they are conducting their processing techniques, and how many businesses are entering into partnerships with NGOs to find sustainable solutions.
Still, at the end of each day during the Summit I found myself really struggling with what I was going to write in this blog since I had set myself up for some profound diatribe, and I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired. But then, at this very session, my own light bulb turned on.  As the closing session began, the 700 attendees from 30 different countries were shown a special video address by HRH The Prince of Wales.  In his speech he discussed the world fisheries crisis and the need for an increase in the adoption of sustainable fisheries management. He talked about how disheartening it is, not only for people like us Pandas who are working on marine conservation, but also for the fishermen who are out on the water, and the policy makers who are trying to get compliance (it was like he had been there all week listening to the same sessions I had sat in on). But he put another spin on it. He cautioned us all to stay strong and focused on what we need to achieve – and reminded us that the solutions are still within our grasp.
I asked a question in last week’s blog and I am happy to say people responded! It seems that many of you would buy sustainable seafood and there is a willingness to become more informed and make some lifestyle changes. The buzzword “sustainability” has sunken its teeth in and perhaps the slow movement toward change is picking up a bit of speed.
I want to leave you with one final thought. His Royal Highness closed his address with the following remark: “It is, in the end, enlightened individuals who make the strongest difference.” It’s time to turn your light bulb on – and it’s not just up to me to flick your switch – you owe it to yourselves to get informed and be a part of the solution.
(c) Stacey McCarthy/WWF-Canada