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Opinion: Planning for our fisheries

By Graham Hill, for CNN
Graham Hill is all at sea with Plastiki, but sure in his hopes for the future.
Graham Hill is all at sea with Plastiki, but sure in his hopes for the future.
  • Graham Hill, founder of and Plastiki crewmember, examines the demise of fisheries
  • Short-term thinking may lead to the collapse of all fisheries by 2050
  • These problems are reversible if fishing and the pricing of fish are better regulated by governments, says Hill

These are the opinions of Graham Hill, founder of and crewmember of the Plastiki vessel

(CNN) -- It's a classic fable. Most of us know it. Unfortunately, very few of us have internalized it, and now, well, we're living it.

Is it our destiny that the only thing we learn from history is that we don't learn from history? Is it possible that the one species blessed with the ability to have a long-term view will suffer its demise from greedily going for short-term gain?

Compounding interest. Building up your garden over the years. Being consistently respectful and giving in your relationships. These are concepts we understand. Intuitively we get that some things, with regular care and feeding, can keep giving back year after year after year. They take some foresight, some planning, some projecting of ourselves into the future and often, some choose longer-term gain over immediate gratification. In some areas of our lives, we get this, and we reap the rewards.

However, when it comes to the oceans, there is the odd example of longer-term thinking, but for the most part we are raping and pillaging -- we are getting while the getting is good, we are killing our golden goose. Check the projections: many are predicting total collapse of all fisheries by 2050. It's a disaster.

Why do you think this is?

When it comes to the oceans, there is the odd example of longer-term thinking, but for the most part we are raping and pillaging
--Graham Hill

Is it a simple case of the tragedy of the commons? Since two-thirds of our oceans are not under a single nation's ownership, can we simply not help ourselves from getting as much as we possibly can since, if we don't, surely others will?

Seems plausible. But then what explains fisheries collapsing on a national level, where one would think we'd have a commons with well-defined rules for the effective sharing of it? Perhaps corporate interests are influencing the quotas?

To tell you the truth, I'm not sure how this all works.

What I do know is that humanity is blessed with vision, and that in some areas of our lives we reap the rewards of the well-kept golden goose. And in regards to the oceans, I believe that if we take a slightly longer-term view, we'll quickly realize that consumers, nations and fisherman are all on the same side.

What's the golden goose approach look like? Well, from my learning from TED Ocean's Mission Blue and David de Rothschild's Plastiki, I'd suggest that these are some of the key components:

--Right-size the bloated fishing fleet (currently 2.5 times as large as it should be).

--Stop subsidies in order to have fish reflect their true cost (without fuel subsidies, destructive bottom trawling would simply not pencil out).

--Understand that marine-protected areas will create more fish in the surrounding areas and increase tourism.

--Use technology and global agreements to control the take.

--Focus on stopping climate change as otherwise ocean acidification will make everything moot.

The total biomass of all ants on earth is more than all six billion of us yet they create zero waste and live in harmony on the planet. Nature is harsh and competitive but ultimately it's possible to achieve a symbiotic and balanced relationship with its many characters, to settle into a life, not of scarcity but of abundance. We've been there before and we can get there again and not in a back-to-the-land kind of way.

There's a land of plenty awaiting us... a place where, with planning, we can take and take and take. A place where our nurtured golden goose can seemingly magically provide for us for eons. In short, an ocean in balance with humanity.