Fishing may be a great pastime to many, but to even more it is a means of obtaining sustenance. It is hard work and often involves great toil. The elements can be intimidating as you ply your trade. And then there is the issue of quantity. In certain parts of the world, certain species are declining in numbers and threatening regional prosperity. Fishing can be constitute an entire local economy and make the difference between health and starvation.
It is serious business, indeed, and must be protected from poachers, toxic waste, and the detrimental changing texture of the land such as sea level. You go on the Internet and all you say are ads for fly-fishing junkets and luxury tours. If you saw the faces of needy children in Africa, you would turn away in disgust at the blatant negligence and disinterest of the affluent western world.
It is not always about water, although that is certainly part of the picture. It is also about other natural resources in a given area and what has been done to preserve them for posterity. It is about cultivating sources of food: grains, domestic animals, seafood, etc. We must teach the third world how to farm fish, for example, and promote an even and ample supply. Ignorance creates a dearth of options when science is not allowed to intervene.
Many cultures still use ancient methods to fish the seas – no sign of the best fish finder or other high tech gear here! In China there are boat communities where the people do not even go on land. Food and living staples are brought to them. They live near cliffs in waters known for the best catch. While you would not want to disrupt tradition, there comes a time when the situation turns grave and subsistence fishing becomes desperate. Some areas of the world can barely feed themselves with no opportunity for real commerce and income.
We don’t have to worry about the big guys and the big boats. They are pros and are part of a chain of command in the industry that is self-sufficient and lucrative. We need to turn our attention to the individual fisherman and his family trying to stay alive at a time when the rest of the world is dining well. The discrepancy is so great as to be astounding.
Modern technology is not always available to people fishing (or farming) at a subsistence level. The term denotes a non-commercial activity with a specific purpose like feeding a family. It is the opposite of sport fishing, is low tech and small in scale. To grow to the point of greater sustenance, and even excess to engender profit, they need to enter a structured system that has previously excluded them. With language and cultural barriers, this is easier said than done. So let’s stop looking at these people as interesting fodder for National Geographic programs and find out how we can draw attention and provide help. There is local regulation in Alaska with the Board of Fisheries. Why not in other regions?