Bill François writes in his beautiful little book, Eloquence of the Sardine: “Woe betide one who betrays the sea. The ocean belongs to everyone and to no one.”
What does it mean to betray the sea?
One extinguished fishery after another due to the industrial-scale deep-sea trawlers that scrape the ocean bottom clean of most macroscopic organisms, obliterating complex ecosystems based on slow-growing sessile invertebrates. Overfishing continuing to contribute to the destruction or extinction of many species: numerous sea turtles; Atlantic cod; many whale species; tuna of all types; manatee; whale shark; etc., etc.
Pollution of the oceans with plastics, oil, chemicals, and general garbage.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), uniquely composed of both
government and civil society organizations, lists 5,652 marine species that are in serious trouble.
Humanity’s relative disregard for oceanic environments is clearly evident in statistics. Twelve percent (.12) of the world’s land is contained in protected areas, whereas the corresponding figure for the sea is but three-fifths of one percent (.006). Regulating international waters is next to impossible since no one has authority over the oceanic territories past the territorial limit of twelve nautical miles.
The sickening betrayal of the seas has been documented in the extreme. Yet it continues unabated except for the odd noteworthy successful restorative or regulatory effort. Let’s be honest. It is difficult to get a resident of Beatrice, Nebraska or Haibei, Qinghai Province, China to get all worked up over the endangerment of humphead wrasses struggling for survival on coral reefs. Or even the decimation of tuna species as long as their meat is available on grocery store shelves.
The sea, the air, and the land belong to everyone and to no one. If we don’t want generations of human beings to come to be added to the endangered or extinct lists, the people of the world best smarten up.