After watching “The Cove” I found myself aware of not just one issue, but several. While the focus is dolphin killing and the moral responsibility attached to hunting such an intelligent animal, I actually found overfishing to be a much more interesting and pervasive issue. Whaling is concentrated in a few areas, the most publicized of which is Taiji, Japan. While the image of dead dolphins and red water is graphic, the dolphin population is generally healthy and there haven’t been any noticeable systems of ecosystem collapse related to the murder of dolphins. Overfishing, on the other hand, is something that every part of the world is guilty of, and is quickly bringing our oceanic ecosystem to the brink of collapse.
While Japan blamed whales on the declining population of various fish species, the reality is that humans have been picking away at the ecosystem for a long time. Bottom trawling in Europe, Japan, China, and the United States has been destroying the environment as well as taking fish away from small-town fishing businesses. For example, European trawlers in Moroccan waters have been taking resources away from Africans that depend on the availability of fish. Not only that, but “more than 90% of the fish caught by EU freezer-trawlers off Morrocco and Mauretania is exported to countries outside the EU, such as China, Egypt, Nigeria and Thailand.” (source) Exporting fish is a business that’s as huge as catching the fish in the first place, and the Tsukiji fish market provides lobster and other common local fish species to numerous places in and out of Japan. Sushi, especially, is in high demand and a Japanese staple, meaning that fish is consumed at an incredible rate in comparison to other sources of meat.
Overfishing is an incredibly difficult problem to tackle, which is why it’s a lot easier to focus on issues that deal with emotions as opposed to logic. It’s easy to say, for example, that killing dolphins is wrong and we should be studying them instead. A combination of population growth and the need to make profits is the reason for overfishing, and obviously controlling population growth is a problem that no one wants to touch. Fish is a staple for many people throughout Asia and the Middle East, and suddenly cutting off the supply to such a popular food for the sake of letting the population expand again is almost out of the question. Millions of people across the world are starving as it is. Chances are that it will take a serious ecosystem collapse, one that stretches across the expanse of the entire globe and affects everyone, to get people to do something about a problem that plagues our society.