As I travel and talk to people about oceans I’m hearing the same conversation begin over and over again. Halting, preliminary, incomplete, but recognizable. Using different jargon in different fora, some technical and some not.
People are beginning to ask: what are oceans for?
The long history of unconsidered use is being questioned. Decades of fishing pushed favorite fish into deep decline, and the response is starting to sound new.
For years, overfishing was a technical problem, to be fixed by better stock assessments and tweaking the way people fish. A new model here and modified nets there. But now we’re seeing some new responses. People are starting to say that our oceans are not just for jobs. We need to start worrying about our oceans, because they’re natural capital that we need to protect.
Conservation groups are giving fishermen money to stop fishing. Governments are declaring some areas off-limits to fishing in a new ocean refuge movement. Retail chains that buy lots of seafood are asking for sustainable fishing because they’re worried about running out of seafood.
These ocean future conversations are just beginning, and they’ll take time. How will they end? These things only go one way.
Logging of old growth forests was for jobs when I was growing up in Oregon, and now logging proponents say it’s for the good of the forest. That conversation has changed in my lifetime, and it ain’t going back.
Everybody knows that it’s bad to dump sewage in rivers, and we’re slowly getting about the business of fixing that problem. It’s expensive and slow, but we know what we have to do and there’s no going back.
Today’s ocean conversations are starting down the same path. What are oceans for?