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Fish and People Module 1| 11mins
Director: Brett Shorthouse | Producer: Brett Shorthouse and Simon Foale
Focus Years: 2012 | Country: Australia
Subject Tags: ecology, economies, environment, food, livelihood, oceania, resources
Quality Tags: Optimistic, Slow, Activating, Harmonizing
Fish and People is a five-part educational module explaining what fisheries scientists call ‘the stock-recruitment relationship’ in an easily accessible manner and with a carefully crafted portfolio of explanatory graphics and natural history photography. It deals with species that are of economic (and ecological) importance and thus immediately familiar to a Pacific audience. It is tailored for middle and upper high school students and is accompanied by a comprehensive teacher’s guide. Fish and People has been scripted by Simon Foale and Russell Kelley, and assembled and edited by multi-award-winning media professionals at Digital Dimensions and Eco Media Production Group. The first of five modules, this module introduces the concept of the limits of fisheries. Pre-colonial Pacific Island societies by and large existed at human population densities that were far below the carrying capacity of their coastal fisheries and pressure from commercial fishing was non-existent. As a consequence island communities did not ‘encounter the limits’ of their coastal subsistence fisheries. People went about their daily lives harvesting from the sea and blissfully unaware that fish and marine invertebrate populations could be overfished to the point collapse. Despite the existence of some traditional measures for increasing stock densities of valuable fisheries (taboos), usually in the context of feasting rituals, most Pacific Islanders traditionally have the fatalistic belief that fish stocks will always recover, no matter how severely they are depleted. This historical and cultural reality starkly contrasts with the enduringly popular but long discredited western myth of Pacific ‘Noble Savages’, living in harmony with nature. Now that human populations are growing almost exponentially and export markets for some fisheries are rapidly intensifying, there is an urgent need for the effective communication of a scientific understanding of the limits to fisheries and the life cycles of marine organisms overall. The fatalistic attitude of many people is primarily due to a widespread lack of awareness of the importance of the connection between the number of adult fish in a population to the rate of production of the next generation. The more a population is reduced in size by fishing, the fewer fertilized eggs it produces and the fewer juveniles end up being added to (recruiting to) that population. The fact that part of the life-cycle of fish and most marine animals is a tiny larva, generally invisible to the naked eye, that disperses on ocean currents for days, weeks or months till it is ready to settle and transform into a juvenile, is also part of the reason most people don’t make the connection between over-fishing and declining fishery ‘production’. The rationale for approaching the impending fisheries management crisis in the Pacific with a high-school level learning tool like the Fish and People program is straightforward. We believe if a critical mass of young adults acquire a clear understanding of how overfishing destroys fisheries and food security, they will not only innovate their own, ‘bottom-up’ fisheries management strategies as they assume positions of influence within the community, but they will also be more likely to understand the need for, and therefore comply with, ‘top-down’ management approaches such as size limits, gear restrictions, moratoria and quotas. A research paper that outlines this argument in more detail is here: Foale S., Cohen P., Januchowski S., Wenger A., Macintyre M. (2011) Tenure and taboos: origins and implications for fisheries in the Pacific. Fish and Fisheries 12, 357-369.
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