Why Overfishing and Unemployed Fishermen Are Directly Linked

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Video screen capture. Perennial Plate

How we—as consumers—should respond to overfishing has always been a tricky topic to me. On the one hand, it makes sense to support small, independent fisheries and retailers who pursue strict standards. On the other hand, in a system as stressed as ours, might it be better to lay off consuming fish entirely?

Joe Caufield—a fisherman in Howth, near Dublin—doesn't exactly have an answer for us in this beautiful video. He doesn't even eat fish himself, apparently. But he does offer one more reminder of a stark fact: Overfishing has accelerated at exactly the same time as independent fishing operators have been disappearing.

The fact is that giant, industrialized trawling operations are good not just at catching massive amounts of fish—but wiping out smaller competition too. And by driving down the price of fish, they've increased the ability for all of us to eat fish on a daily basis, should we choose to do so.

Ultimately, I suspect, the answer to my opening question is buried in its phrasing: We shouldn't just respond to overfishing as consumers. We should respond to it as citizens. And that means voting for policies that support both sustainable livelihoods and sustainable fisheries.

As Joe Caufield himself asks: Do we, as a society, want one person making a million, or 40 people making 30,000 a year? If you want money, you can always marry into it anyway, he says.

This is another great video from the folks at Perennial Plate, by the way—the same crew who introduced us to the hill farmers of The Burren.

Howth, Dublin from The Perennial Plate on Vimeo.