images of worldwide disasters

“A little fish can be big / May God give it life.” If he begins his story in this way, La Fontaine nevertheless assures us that we do not return this little fry to the water: “One in your hand is precious, we say to ourselves, better than two you have ; one is safe, the other is not. From this allegory, morality is proven to be wise as long as man opposes his only muscle and his wrong view towards the tricks of the living. This has been reversed because we have been able to track it using powerful radars, large nets and trolling lines that can measure 100 kilometers in length. Every year, these high-tech equipment allow more than 77 billion kilos of fish, crustaceans, squid to be swallowed… It adds creatures caught by artisanal means, by recreational fishing and, more than all, through large-scale poaching. Their number is more difficult to estimate.

Also read: Overfishing: ongoing disaster investigation

What comes next after this ad

“Everywhere, old fishermen find their waters empty over time”, confirms George Steinmetz, who signed the exhibition “World Fisheries” in Perpignan. His images reveal deceptive paradises, such as the turquoise expanse between two Mozambican islands. As translucent as a swimming pool and almost no wildlife. In order to survive, families lead a desperate and desperate fight there: the nets of their nets are tightened more and more to catch the smallest prey, which, precisely, has not yet had time to give birth. “That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever seen,” said the photographer. And this is also the definition of overfishing: when the techniques used threaten the sustainability of fish stocks. Since the rise of industrial fishing, huge buildings have criss-crossed the planet, gobbling up life in their path. In Mozambique, as in other developing countries, those who get their only source of protein from the sea are reduced to getting the rest.

What comes next after this ad

Also read: The study shows how much marine life in the wild is being lost

At 64, American George Steinmetz spent a decade studying the big business of globalized food. Multi-award winning during his career, this aerial photographer has been in charge of the box for a long time while piloting an amazing ULM, his “flying deck chair”. Now, he favors drones. Gaining height allowed him to translate confusing figures into images: thousands of small calves in many small enclosures, tens of thousands of turkeys sprayed with antibiotics .. In 2018, these photos were shown in Perpignan, under the title “Big Food”, and published in the Paris Match preview.

What comes next after this ad

What comes next after this ad

The epic continues with the sea seen from the sky. Under the lens, the “quiet roof where the pigeons walk”, beloved by Paul Valéry, becomes a vulnerable canvas, surveyed by an armada of predators, from wooden boats to metal animal Among the preparations for his reports, George Steinmetz examined the coastline on Google Earth: “In India, some coastlines are so covered by watercraft that they can wake up a piano keyboard.” A scientist by training, he wanted the research of a great fisheries specialist, the Franco-Canadian Daniel Pauly, from the University of British Columbia.

In 2016, this biologist signed an alarming study, which was published in the prestigious journal “Nature”. This shows that UN fisheries statistics are largely underestimated, as they are based only on declarations by member countries. The total number of catches was 53% higher than expected. It peaked in 1996 and has been collapsing ever since due to depleted stocks. But, there too, much faster than the official figures show. The founder of several major websites, including Sea Around Us, Daniel Pauly laments that the way we swallow the food chain from the top to the bottom: the large predatory species, then the prey, smaller and smaller. . If we continue like this, he warns, “we will be left with fish bites and surimi”. Even. Salmon or shrimp farms provide their proteges with wild fish food. 5 tons of fish products must be ground to get 1 ton of this powder, which also feeds pigs, battery chickens, dogs and pet cats…

We devour the food chain from the top to the bottom: the larger species, then smaller and smaller prey. If this continues, soon there will be surimi!

George Steinmetz sighed as he evoked “The old man and the sea”, which earned Hemingway the Nobel Prize in 1954. Santiago, a Cuban fisherman, proved his bravery there by catching a marlin that was bigger than him. . “A size unimaginable today,” said the photographer. The biggest fish will disappear, as well as the tastiest. Residents of poor countries are not the only ones who get a pittance when they are despised. Due to lack of thrushes, we eat blackbirds. Due to a shortage of cod, the United States turned to hake. Steinmetz leaned on a special factory ship, the “Alaska Ocean”, an American ship 114 meters long. Outside of Oregon, it’s pumping in alarming volumes. But without exterminating the population of hake, for the moment wriggling. The tasteless flesh is wrapped in breadcrumbs to supply hypermarkets with croquettes and fast food restaurants with fish burgers. Despite the abundance of these XXL buildings, it is sometimes difficult to recognize them and even more to approach them. True, they must have transponders, which make it possible to know their position at any time. But many turn them off when it suits them. Controls in the oceans and in some territorial waters are rare, due to poverty, corruption…

In the southwest of the Atlantic many ships cross from the Far East. For three years, George Steinmetz requested permission to accompany an Argentine aerial surveillance patrol. No success. In the British archipelago of Falklands, he got the discharge to stay for ten days in “Hsiang Fa 8”. This Taiwanese boat, 76 meters long, fished squid more than 17,000 kilometers from their home port. “This is the worst time of the pandemic, says the photographer. Of course, my test is negative. The sailors are happy: they have not seen a new face for months. But Covid or not, their existence falls under the long imprisonment.

Taiwan, South Korea and, above all, China have established quotas in their own waters and pushed their ships to the other side of the world. The workers spent about nine months on board, in difficult conditions and never disembarked. Freighters often come to supply them and leave with their catch. If the proportions are small, Europe also sometimes joins in the looting. In 2021, Greenpeace denounced the presence of the “FV Margiris”, with a Lithuanian flag, in Mauritanian waters, following an agreement between the country’s authorities and the European Union. Larger than a football field, its net can catch 250 tons of small pelagic fish (near the surface) per day, a resource that is already overexploited in West Africa.

China is pushing its fleet to the other end of the world

The full extent of these processes was not known until the publication of a major synthesis in “Science” in 2018. We owe it to researchers from the NGO Global Fishing Watch, the National Geographic Society, the Stanford University… Thanks to advances in satellite technology and big data processing, they analyzed the activities of about 70,000 ships. It exploits 55% of the surface of the ocean, a space four times larger than that occupied by agriculture. Science without conscience is evil to the soul… Scientific progress allows selfish theft; it can also pave the way for smarter management of marine resources. George Steinmetz refuses to fall into pessimism.

When he shows the magnitude of the disaster, he also looks for counterexamples, such as Bristol Bay, Alaska. This kingdom of wild salmon is governed by an effective international agreement between the United States, Canada, Russia and South Korea to protect anadromous fish, those that invest in rivers to reproduce. Ban on catching them in the sea. Keep the rivers. Observers count returning salmon and allow fishing when enough has passed to ensure species turnover. “The harvest is more and more fruitful, encouraging the photographer. Everyone wins: people and fish. He also recommends everyone to check the labels of seafood products. If the MSC international label is criticized by NGOs, it offers some guarantees. More reliable: France sustainable and responsible fishing, Artisanal Artisanal fishing guaranteed Line-caught bass Pointe de Bretagne certifications. In 1957, already, Camus listed “the techniques gone mad, the dead gods and the tired ideologies” of humanity. The mission he assigned himself remains more important than ever: “To prevent the world from falling apart. »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.