7 things to know about the world's oceans that could actually help human beings.
Things are goin' DOWN on the high seas.
Sebastian the crab from "The Little Mermaid" was right.
That same human world is taking a big ol' swan dive into the sea and making it a mess, too.
And U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has taken notice.
Here are seven reasons you might wanna take notice too.
1. The oceans don't have just an environmental problem, they have a human problem!
Yes, the sea is acidifying 10 times faster than at any other point in history. And about half of all fish are "fully exploited." But actual humans beings with feelings and families are being hurt because of the lackadaisical way the — ahem — world has been handling crime on our oceans.
Human trafficking, which is a nice way of saying slavery, is a huge problem out there on the high seas.
And it's not just Secretary Kerry who agrees. Indonesia's marine affairs and fisheries minister, Susi Pudjiastuti, has said "In tackling illegal fishing, we are fighting human trafficking."
So, yeah. Let's not have slaves make our tuna salad? I can get behind that.
2. At least $10 billion a year is lost just because of illegal fishing.
That's a lot of billions. According to Kerry, fixing this huge loss isn't about new rules — it's about just making everyone follow the ones that already exist.
Which means at least $10 billion worth of rules are currently not being followed.
A recent New York Times report stated that, “Globally, illegal fishing costs more than $20 billion annually, and one in every five fish imported to the United States is thought to have been caught illegally."
3. Shady fish = shady humans.
Plain, simple, logical.
4. More than 80% of seafood consumed by Americans is imported. And it's not clear (right now) where it's coming from.
If you don't know where it's from, you don't know that it's not suuuuuper shady.
Kerry has advocated for stronger rules about where the supply chain begins. If he gets his way (and I hope he does!), he aims to establish "an understanding of the fishing chain, but also some sort of sign off or seal of approval as to what the conditions were in which it was fished."
I love it when my fish is signed, sealed, and delivered minus human suffering and ocean sadness! I'm yours.
5. Environmental groups, not governments, are the ones catching the bad guys. Weird, right?
Environmental group Sea Shepherd recently tracked an illegal fishing boat across 10,000 miles for over 100 days. An environmental group. Funded by donations — many from celebrities. Out on the ocean enforcing laws. I'd say that's weird.
On The Outlaw Ocean, "It takes a pirate to catch a pirate." The 4th Installment of The Outlaw Ocean: http://urbina.io/1KuY8Zz
A photo posted by Ian Urbina (@ian_urbina) on
6. The American government is purchasing seafood items that have some pretty sad (aka slave labor) pasts.
Robert Stumberg, a Georgetown University law professor speaking at a briefing for the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking, "analyzed $300 million worth of American government purchases of fishery products, including frozen shrimp, canned tuna and livestock feed, which he said were most likely to be produced by slave labor," according to a recent New York Times report.
$300 million of purchases from the American government (not even the American people!) were most likely produced by slave labor.
As for the American people's purchases, companies known for keeping slaves have been linked to Iams, Meow Mix, and Fancy Feast.
7. The U.S. government can wield its seafood shopping list ... for good!
That $300 million in fishery products is a lot of purchasing power. And we can use it.
I like to hear that America is leading the way in peacefully making a change that could mean less human suffering, less crime, and, well, more happy pets and fewer sad humans, too.
Win, win, meow.
It's hard to talk about, and it's a little overwhelming. But awareness is a step in a really right direction. Awareness is what led Secretary Kerry to speak up and start making steps to get a handle on this.