Over the last few years, I’ve been part of a group working to put some scientific numbers on the question; “Why should we care about biodiversity?” and specifically ocean biodiversity. We all love whales and sea turtles, and the occasional Jacques Cousteau rerun. But how does ocean life really affect our life?
Our main report was published in Science in November 2006 and one part of it generated headlines that got a lot of people riled up (see for example, here and here). Perhaps more about that another time. But, during the course of the study, I spent a fair amount of time talking with people about marine biodiversity and conservation, and the question I always get, understandably, is “What can I do?”
Well, here are a few answers for starters.
Eat right. Our biggest impacts on the Sea come from our relentless scouring of it for food (climate change may soon eclipse fishing as the main threat, but that’s a story for another day). Probably the simplest, most concrete thing you can do to help is learn how to choose seafood that is sustainably managed, ensuring that it should still be around when your grandchildren are cooking for you. Seafood Watch, from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, is a fantastic site, with resources ranging from sustainable seafood cheat sheets small enough to stash in your wallet or purse, to meaty (no pun intended) statistically dense reports on individual fish species for the hard-core (the mahi mahi report alone is 54 pages long!).
Environmental Defense has a wallet card too (which has a cooler logo, IMHO), and a section on recipes, many of which sound decidedly yummy (for example, how about Tilapia Fillets With Pine Nuts and Garlic With Fried Grits and Sautéed Greens?).
The Natural Resources Defense Council has a sustainable seafood recipe page. I haven’t tried any of these yet but some of them sound fabulous (perhaps Grilled Fresh Sardines with Preserved Lemon Salsa Verde?).
What about aquaculture — isn’t that the answer to saving the oceans? Not necessarily. The devil is in the details: Tilapia and catfish – good! Farmed salmon – bad! Seaweb has a great summary of the benefits, costs, and environmental issues associated with aquaculture.
Be a patriot. Exercise your right and responsibility as a citizen of a democracy by educating yourself on the issues, and contacting your elected representatives and asking them to support homeland security. I am talking about security for our homeland in the broadest sense of the natural world that sustains seafood and everything else we depend on. Information on ocean-related issues that require political action is available from the Ocean Conservancy, the Surfrider Foundation, the Marine Fish Conservation Network, and others.
The cool poster above is “Sustainability – it’s in our hands” by Ray Troll and Terry Pyles.