The web is witnessing heated debates on the documentary produced by Netflix, “Seaspiracy”. Although the topics of ocean pollution and climate change are well known to most of the population, Seaspiracy had the merit of indicating, through data and statistics, the worrying consequences we are approaching if we will not implement long-term and sustainable strategies.
The authors' commitment also focuses to make new generations aware, using a platform used mostly by young users, of some issues related to seafood, such as slavery or forced labor, bycatching, and the collapse of the maritime ecosystem. Equally shocking and surprising has been the topic regarding the lack of credibility and the hypocrisy that lies behind the commitment of some environmental organizations and eco-certifications’ companies, as well as the support of some governments in hiding activities of illegal fishing (source of great profits).
This article aims to analyze the most controversial aspects concerning this issue, placing an emphasis on the correlation between responsible sourcing and hospitality.
Commercial fishing is impacting disastrously the biodiversity of oceans and seas. Every minute 5.000 fish are killed to be on our tables, and it is estimated that, by 2048, oceans could be empty. The threats stemming from this kind of hypothesis should alarm every human being. 93% of the CO2 present in our world is stored in the oceans thanks to the natural movement of living beings that inhabit the waters. Failing to maintain this gas within the marine ecosystem is triggering, and will continue to do so, increases in temperature, contributing to global warming with the high risk of catastrophic natural events.
Another aspect to consider is that 46% of the plastic that pollutes the oceans comes from fishing nets. Over the years, large campaigns against the use of plastic have been sponsored to the point of becoming one of the cornerstones in the fight against climate change. The focus has been on using biodegradable cutlery and containers, avoiding plastic bottles, and other good practices, but no one has ever turned the spotlight on the tragic impact of plastic used for commercial fishing. As the author testified on his production, the evidence is to be found in the lack of mentions, on the main websites that encourage responsible attitude, regarding the danger of using fishing nets. Could it be a case? It is not possible. It is more reasonable to assume that the gains from the fish trade outweigh environmental interests; a mechanism facilitated by rampant corruption.
Furthermore, it is observable how, even the practices labeled as "sustainable", such as fish farming, are exactly the opposite of what is thought. Diseases and organic pollution are just two of the consequences of this method that brings few advantages.
As stated in the introduction, some organizations and entities such as "Earth Island" and "Plastic Pollution Coalition" have shown the discrepancy between the noble ideals behind their creation and what they really pursue. Earth Island, responsible for conferring the label "Dolphin Safe" to those producers who behaved responsibly during fishing, made it clear through unanswered questions and silence that sustainable fishing is only a facade concept. At this point, many people operating in the hospitality sector need to review their sourcing methods. Striving to offer its customers products that respect the environment has proven to be unsuccessful due to the bad faith of those who had to certify the same products.
The loss of credibility and trust in those who proposed those products is one of the indirect consequences of the entire commercial fishing process. Similarly, the purchase of products, from those who are likely to use slavery and forced labor for greater earnings, should be faced by the prompt intervention of the international community due to the unacceptable violations of human rights that are characterizing commercial fishing. As an aggravating factor, many areas are subject to the action of illegal fishing vessels looking for fish in ocean basins not yet fully exploited, taking away forms of livelihood from the local population. In this race to be more competitive, 24.000 fishermen die each year and anyone who tries to oppose a corrupt system, either disappears or gets killed.
In light of these considerations, it is clear that the ocean ecosystem needs to recompose itself and this is possible through greater global responsibility and cooperation. An interesting and useful input can come from the world of hospitality. The choice of sustainable solutions could represent a trend to follow and an incentive for everyday life.
Looking for a definitive solution, at the end of the documentary, it is asserted that the only way to solve the problem is for the entire population to stop eating fish. This approach would make it possible to avoid ingesting any harmful substances, such as mercury or other heavy metals, but however effective, it is a utopian solution. Consequently, the choices for hospitality, in my opinion, are mainly two: avoid serving fish (as well as any animal-based product) by encouraging vegan choices or follow and take care of the whole process that brings seafood to our meals. Therefore, to strengthen its commitment and credibility, the responsible choice of any partnerships, that can honor and respect sustainability projects, is crucial.
The role of hospitality should be to demonstrate that it is possible to offer services in line with the environment and all living beings. The fight against the devastating effects of mass tourism and the use of plastic were the first two issues that testified to a widespread commitment in the sector. Thanks to some illustrious cases of good conduct, best practices, such as the ban of using single-use plastic for furniture, have been implemented to ensure sustainable tourism, which is becoming an affirmed luxury trend.
Creating a solidarity mechanism inside this sector could enhance the path of restoring our environment, bringing an added value to the choices of the owners. In this way, an emotional relationship with the customer would be established, whose commitment translates into finding and searching for good-impact solutions.
Achieving this goal is essential since commercial fishing is waged by a large-scale distribution that allows bars, restaurants, and hotels to stock up on a daily basis, provoking the drastic effects we are experiencing. Less demand would affect the operation of commercial and illegal fishing, allowing seas and oceans to repopulate.
Summing up, the Mediterranean diet is part of the European and global culture and we should strive to promote its sustainability. Avoiding overfishing and bycatching practices would reduce the probability of extinction for some species and would give oxygen to the ecosystem recovery. Technological advancement and the use of artificial intelligence may be embedded for monitoring fish farming, avoiding the proliferation of parasites and diseases. The creation of plant-based foods that can replace seafood could ensure a lower need for commercial fishing and would limit the pollution resulting from the latter. But the first action to be taken is to regulate the entire industry and set benchmarks for the achievement of specific objectives that can concretely contribute to the achievement of some SDGs by 2030. Coordination between the United Nations, the EU, the NGOs, environmental and international organizations appears to be a prerogative to obtain a shared project. As a matter of fact, the awareness of global issues should be sponsored by institutions, through the promotion of sustainable initiatives, in order to spread the willingness to act united towards a challenge. To inspire reliability, it is urgent for the international community to adequate the legal framework to the increasing threats we are facing, struggling to make it work as a deterrent.
In this article, we addressed the dramatic conditions in which the marine world finds itself, but as a final thought, we should not forget other global challenges. In this regard, it must be borne in mind that intensive farming of land animals should be tackled too. Firstly, for the huge releases of carbon dioxide, secondly for the cruelty and indifference with which the animals are treated. The protection of the environment and other living beings must be globalized and constant. Although we can investigate a particular issue, there are others that require an immediate problem-solving approach.
Through webinars, training, and education programs, we must push the population to be aware and act towards these problems, whose gravity does not allow further delay concerning collective action.