As a mother and lifelong commercial fisher, I share my son’s frustration about the health of our oceans. Our generation is leaving a frightening legacy to our kids.
My son has fished with me since he was 5 months old. He was not much help then, but he was on the boat that first summer of his life and every summer since, toughing out his share of seasickness and gradually changing from a liability to an asset. Fishing is in his blood; he wants to be at the rail as each and every hook comes aboard so he can see the fish and help land them.
He loves fish — not just catching, selling or eating them, but learning all he can about their characteristics and habitat niche. He has two fish tanks at home, and we often have a tote of water sloshing around on deck with a fish, snail or crab he wants to watch for a while, swimming in habitat he has created with seaweed, rocks or shells.
On the boat, he reads to us from the fish identification book; at home, the only movies he wants to watch are documentaries about the ocean. He is passionate, if not obsessed, with fish and fishing.
But here is my concern: Every documentary we watch about the ocean warns of coral bleaching, miles of marine plastics and declining fish and marine mammal populations. Every book he picks up paints a dismal picture of ocean health, with acidification and overfishing described in graphic detail. He doesn’t say much — he is a quiet kid — but I know that he is deeply troubled by the news and frustrated that so little is being done to protect what he loves.
As a mother and lifelong commercial fisher, I share his frustration. Our generation is leaving a frightening legacy to our kids. Accelerating climate change and spiraling impacts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the ocean. Warm water dropping the ocean’s productivity and starving birds and fish. Empty hooks. Worried fishermen and struggling communities. Not the ocean — or world — I want my son or anyone else — to inherit.
So what can we do? First, commit to addressing climate change. Even slowing down the rate of change in the ocean and atmosphere will help; reversing the trend would be even better. Support bills that aim to improve ocean health, such as Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski’s ocean acidification bill, Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan’s marine plastics bill and urge Congress to turn research into meaningful action.
Second, urge your members of Congress to stand strongly in support of conservation standards within the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the most important legislation for federal fisheries, and to hold all harvesters to sustainable annual catch limits. Our ocean is productive but not limitless; all harvest needs to be monitored, accounted for and held to sustainable levels. What we catch today will determine what is left for tomorrow.
Finally, think hard about the next generation — and the six after that — in your daily walk through life. Our decisions are charting the course for the next generations. Right now their journey looks perilous. Please join me in doing all we can to help them navigate to a brighter future.