Ocean stewardship

To the Editor:

On June 8, for World Oceans Day, I collaborated with the MV Film Center to screen the Hot Tuna, a film centering squarely on the oceanic magic and mystery of elusive bluefin giants. Filmmaker Rick Rosenthal managed to capture unprecedented, riveting underwater footage throughout the Atlantic. In some cases, he filmed giant Bluefin, for the first time ever, rocketing through bait balls, some dwarfing nearby dolphins! Due to generations of over-exploitation in the Mediterranean and unknown, or unregulated, and illegal fishing on the high seas, bluefin giants may indeed be coming scarcer.

In Q & A after the film, seven-year-old Vivian Peek bravely rose in front of a packed audience to ask the question: “Do we know how many more fish are in the sea?” Our speakers unequivocally responded that no one could say for sure. At heart, Vivian’s question raised the central specter of our oceans at risk. Her unanswerable question, born of budding conservation concern and scientific curiosity, emboldens the call for increased collective, international ecosystem stewardship.

Bluefin tuna are worth a great deal of money. There was news of a bluefin tuna fetching close to a record three-quarters of a million dollars not long ago. Some contend it’s just super-rich restaurant owners holding grand publicity stunts. There may be more to it than that. Stories of giant bluefin tuna luring fishermen to hunt for the prestige or wealth that landing one can bring, echo the high price of shark fins on Asian markets. The unsustainable killing of sharks for fins in soup, whose cost reflects growing Asian affluence, appears responsible for, along with common disregard for sharks, decimating millions of sharks worldwide. What a pity: we’re still researching their slow reproductive biology and the roles sharks play regulating ecosystems.

But wait a second. Do you even want to eat a top pelagic predator? Mercury and/or heavy metal content of shark and bluefin reflect dangerously increased toxicity levels in our oceans. To top that, the chemical health and pH balance of our oceans is at stake, tipping it unsafely more acid due to collective burning of fossil fuels. Since we’re all stakeholders, even far inland, we all care. Phytoplankton produce anywhere from 50 to 70 percent of our oxygen. Steady oceanic absorption of carbon dioxide is helping erode the planet’s largest, most precious — not to mention stupendously beautiful — family jewels the earth wears as an emerald waistband: our coral reefs.

So as we move into summer, season of beaching, sunning, fishing, racing around in watercraft, let’s act on what we increasingly know is in our best interests. Fact is we owe our lives, livelihoods, and love of life in no small part to this planetary weather driver, fresh water/rain giver, and aquatic freight highway. It is a source of both spiritual sustenance and physical nourishment. It supports everything on which our economy depends. Let’s each make a promise and walk it, for our oceans! Little things can add up: we can drive less, bike more. Consider eating no meat one night a week. Wash and reuse plastic, or forgo it altogether. Above all, advocate for less dependence on fossil fuels, and more funding investment for research in renewable energy.

Thank you, Richard Paradise and MVFS, and Cape Air for sponsoring, and everyone who came out for World Oceans Day film screenings.

Bob MacLean

Heaven in Ocean Productions

Vineyard Haven