Getting the bigger picture into perspective

In February 2013 two different but relevant reports were released about the threatened bluefin tuna. The first article described a record sale of a bluefin tuna: 222 kilogrammes for US$1.8 million (TIME magazine, 7 January).

In the same week, the Guardian released results from Pew Environmental Group stating that pacific bluefin tuna stocks were at an all-time low (Guardian, 8 January) and many fish are being caught before they reproduce. For the pacific bluefin tuna, extinction is a very real possibility.

Bluefin tuna is not protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora agreements, due to Japan’s reliance upon it for the sushi market. Although from different ends of the spectrum, both these stories highlight the same problem.

When does human consumerism (and arguably greed) impact the world’s biodiversity? And how do we stop it?

The restaurant chain that bought the world record holding tuna is going to sell slivers of Bluefin tuna for as much as $24 (per sliver). This fish has therefore not been caught to provide food to meet genuine need; it is now a part of Japan’s fashionable foodie scene. I must quickly add here that this is an example of inappropriate food use from only one country and many others are equally as guilty.

For a large percentage of the world, food is fuel, but in some circles food choice denotes our status in society or how successful we are. In many developing countries, food is scarce and natural stocks, like fish, are depleting. 90 per cent of the world’s protein comes from fish, due to the high percentage of people living on coastlines. 

Subsistence living (catching food to feed your family) is not causing the declines in fish stocks; consumerism is. At what point do we as consumers become responsible?

Well, the answer is we all have to now…and it’s remarkably easy to do. Consumer power is the most persuasive method of change. If we as individuals begin to put pressure on our supermarkets, restaurants, governments etc (in the case of fish), change will be rapid.

Consumerism is based on the wants of the consumer. For those of us lucky enough to be living in or visiting the Cayman Islands, we can play our part. When choosing your fish, do you know where it comes from and if it’s sustainable? Do you still choose grouper when there are alternatives our there that are less threatened?

Do you buy conch and lobster out of season and know where it comes from? Do you support local businesses where possible? A good place to find out what choices you should be making can be found at Cayman Sea Sense (Cayman Islands National Trust). 

Whilst the case of the bluefin tuna is not a local issue, it is representative of the ability to tune out of the bigger picture when personal needs become prevalent.