Is This the End of the Line for Fish?

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The End of the Line is an important documentary film about the devastating impact of overfishing in the world's oceans. First shown at the Sundance Film Festival, with any luck it could do for fishing what "An Inconvenient Truth" did for global warming.

And we need that publicity, public awareness and political involvement because the message is difficult and bad: there will be no fish in the sea by 2050, unless we do something about it. Supported by Waitrose supermarket in the UK, and filmed across the seas, the film shows the greed and politics in the fishing industry and what that has done to the world's--that means our own--stock of fish.

Image from The End of the LIne

The End of the Line is based on a book written by a former Telegraph newspaper journalist, Charles Clover. He then went on to spend two years working on the film; on a one-man crusade to save our fish. He spoke to top scientists, fishermen and enforcement officials. He travelled around the world, chasing down politicians and confronting high profile restaurateurs about their menus.

Why Overfishing is a Problem

Essentially, there are not enough fish in the sea any longer. This is because fish are a finite resource and we have been taking too many out of the ocean--at a much faster rate than they can ever reproduce. Ninety per cent of the ocean’s large fish have been fished out and global fishing fleets are 250 per cent larger than the oceans can sustainably support. And there is little or no regulation and lots of big business and big corruption. We've got trouble.

The film tells a complicated story in a straight forward and compelling way. Some of the images are stunning and others are frightening, as we see huge super trawlers "inhaling" fish.

The demise and subsequent moratorium on cod fishing in Newfoundland by 1992 was the first big example that fish stocks were not inexhaustible. By 2002 the decline worldwide was being recognised.

whistle blower photo

Image from The End of the Line
In addition to cod, other species have also collapsed. The blue fin tuna is almost extinct now because of our love of sushi. The film has a fascinating section about a former fisherman who has become a whistleblower. Roberto Mielgo is a very brave man who trails and reports boats destroying the blue fin tuna population. It's hard to believe that he can carry on with his mission in the face of the possible danger.

Fish forms a key part of the diet of 1.2 billion people in the world. Declining resources will threaten lives. West Africa, a poor country at best, used to have the richest stocks, now they have seen a massive decline.

It's a complicated issue. The film outlines the impact of the huge super trawlers and global companies travelling around the world to find more fish. Fish farming is discussed--farmed fish eat ground up fish meal. So more fish lost. The European Union's quota system is not quite perfect: they are setting quotas that are well over the acceptable limits for reviving fishing stocks.

fish swimming photo

Image from The End of the Line
But There are Some Solutions

Said one scientist: there is "still time to turn the course of history." People are getting a better understanding of the problem. It's becoming a more main stream issue gradually, as climate change has. Consumers are demanding better accountability and supermarkets are being forced to respond. Since the chain stores have the buying power, they can make or break a supplier with their demands. For example, Waitrose, the film's UK sponsor, has already launched responsible fishing policies to ensure that fish are bought from sustainable sources and caught using responsible methods. Governments are becoming more aware. Iceland is a model for sustainable fishing and has much to teach the world.

The film opens on World Oceans Day, June 8, so find a cinema nearby and learn about something that will change the way you think and eat. The End of the LIne