Should Commercial Fishing be Banned Worldwide?

The oceans are vital for providing food for billions of people and maintaining the planet’s biodiversity.

But when we talk about issues affecting the oceans, the conversation often falls to what ingredients are found in suntan lotion, plastic bottles floating in the water, the bleaching of coral reefs, and what we see in sensationalist reality programming such as Whale Wars.

Environmental activists want that to change because the oceans are being threatened by the very industry that depends on the health of those same oceans to survive. The fishing industry is mammoth, and each year it brings up anywhere from 0.97 to 2.7 trillion fish – these figures don’t include farmed fish or what is caught recreationally, or sharks, dolphins, turtles, or whales that are caught in nets.

So the fishing industry is big. It is also the main source of income and food for so much of the world.

  • Globally, an estimated 260 million people, directly and indirectly, earn their livelihood from the fishing industry. Other reports suggest that number is closer to 500 million.
  • In the U.S., in 2016, 1.7 million jobs were supported by the fishing industry.
  • Many coastal regions rely on fishing to sustain their local economies.
  • Three billion people rely on wild-caught or harvested seafood for 20% of their protein.

These figures are important for defending the commercial fishing industry and arguing against bans and restrictions. It should be noted, however, that some bans and restrictions have been put into place. In 2019, China imposed a ban that ran March 1 to June 1 with the goal of helping cut back on overfishing. Australia has restrictions on the size of fishing boats. Other nations, including those in Europe, also seek to regulate waters to protect fisheries, including those in the Arctic (the U.S. also signed the treaty).

Some oppose these restrictions or any talk of bans on commercial fishing. It is hard to argue taking away people’s income and source of food. Moreover, people would likely just switch to cows, chickens, and other land animals, which are often farmed in similarly dustructive fashion. 

So if we have to accept that commercial fishing is here to say, and bans and restrictions will only have a marginal effect, the conversation should focus more on how we catch fish, rather than how much fish we actually catch.

Here are some of the key concerns that surround the fishing industry that might help to ease concerns around the fishing industry.

  • Ecological Disruption – This occurs as a result of fishing with hooks that lead to stress or injury to sea life, damage to “food webs” with the removal of one species leading to negative effects on other species, and a loss of ecology from dragging nets that are vital to storing carbon that contributes to climate change.
  • Bycatch – This is part of the catch that isn’t the target species. It is estimated that for each one pound of the target species that is caught, five pounds of marine material is caught and discarded; an estimated 63 billion pounds (40%) of fish caught globally is discarded, with 650,00 whales, dolphins and seals being killed. Bycatch, however, can be retained and sold for various purposes, but information on this is not well tracked.
  • Shark Finning – Up to 100 million sharks die each year as a result of finning, which is a practice where fishermen remove the fins of sharks for sale before discarding the shark body (alive or dead) back into the ocean.
  • Marine Debris – Fishing gear represents around 10 percent of the total plastic pollution that goes into oceans each year. Why this is alarming is that around 85 percent of that is “large plastics” that includes nets that trap sea life and damage seabeds.

There is awareness around these issues, but it isn’t as commonly talked about. Ethical animal agriculture and farming practices seem to get greater attention. 

Even though few fisheries are built using sustainable practices, they are out there and do provide people with the option. You just need to speak with your local grocer about what sustainable option they offer. Buyers drive the market. If people demand fish that is sustainably and ethically harvested, then the fishing industry will follow suit.
Along with shopping smart when it comes to your food, don’t forget to extend that same consideration to your supplements. If you aren’t a big fish eater, then you might have heard about taking omega-3 supplements to get essential fatty acids in your diet. Pure Encapsulations, Nordic Naturals, and Irwin Naturals offer omega-3 supplements that contain omega fatty acids from trusted sources. These brands strive to harvest fish in a way that supports the environment and your health.

Why is Government a Pain-Point for Americans?

Government, immigration, race relations, and healthcare are the leading pain points for Americans, according to Gallup polling in 2019.

Interestingly, 27% named government as a top issue, and 18% for immigration; race relations and healthcare are just 6% each. Looking back to 2007, the government was just 7%, and immigration was 8%. 

So why did the government, specifically, become a pressing issue?  

Government

Breaking down “government,” we see that partisanship continues to be the thing that drives people’s opinions. Democrats say that Republicans are the problem, and vice versa. Not that partisanship is necessarily bad, provided it is “positive.” With partisanship, it has been theorized that you increase voter participation and create more common good as a result of voters paying more attention to their individual needs and that of surrounding communities. 

However, we currently live in a time that seems dominated by “negative” partisanship, which can lead to distrust in news media and research, and tribal mentalities that see voters thinking only about what is good for their side, even if those same voters know that certain policies or political positions on the other side might be better. 

According to Pew Research, there are eight core issues that have contributed to partisanship today.

  1. Across ten political values, there is now a 36% gap between Republicans and Democrats, which compares to just 15% in 1994.
  2. Democrats are moving further left on issues while Republicans have held firm on their positions; issues facing black Americans may be a primary driver for pushing Democrats left.
  3. Republicans feel less strongly that the government should do more to help the needy compared to a majority of Democrats that feel the government should do more to help.
  4. Global issues and how much the U.S. should be involved also divides the political parties; both parties are not unified on this, with a divide showing there isn’t as much agreement even within the parties as compared to some other issues. 
  5. Democrats are largely unified that the U.S. economic system unfairly benefits “powerful interests”; Republicans are split, with those earning $30,000 or less being more likely than those earning $75,000 or more to say that there is economic unfairness.
  6. Democrats are split on how much hard work contributes to success, with whites and those with college degrees being most skeptical; 77% of Republicans say most people can get ahead if they work hard.
  7. Majorities of both Republicans and Democrats have a favorable view of homosexuality, at 83% and 54%, respectively.
  8. A whopping 88% of Republicans favorably view Trump’s performance as president compared to 8% of Democrats; this is an astounding gap that has not been seen in the past 100 years.

Government is a top issue among Americans, but the statistics seem to suggest that it is not necessarily because we think the government isn’t doing a good job. Rather, we simply aren’t fans of the other side.

With that in mind, what can be done to improve the situation? Based on things that divide us, probably nothing. There are seemingly many deep, underlying differences that won’t easily be solved. Social issues, in particular, are a driving force. Views on marriage, the economy, immigration, race relations, and similar issues are often formed over a person’s entire life and not easily changed, if ever.

More than any of that, trust in our media continues to edge lower, which means that unifying people around any particular issue is increasingly difficult. If we can’t all get on the same page about what is a fact and what is misinformation then there really is no hope. Worse still is when politicians on both sides embrace misinformation because it appeals to the tribalism and makes it easier to get elected or remain in office.

While catastrophes like a global pandemic of coronavirus may help bring people together, it shouldn’t take war, economic collapse, or global pandemics to get people to come together and demand a bi-partisan agreement.

An article titled “What Are the Solutions to Political Polarization?” proposes several ideas. To address polarization, we may need to more frequently interact with those of differing political ideologies, speak more about our personal experiences directly to people, remove online “side talk” that amounts to gossip, thinking more like citizens and less as a group of people fighting for something, more diverse political party options, and voting for policies over parties.

The above article does attempt to outline ways to help make these changes, but it isn’t clear how long it would take to influence people and our political system, or even if people would be receptive. The writers do suggest more drastic measures may be needed to cut through partisanship, such as referendums like those used in Britain for Brexit. Although, it is suggested that delays and continual infighting over Brexit could be making things worse rather than better.

For our part, on the citizen-by-citizen level, each of us can do a little better by not accusing those on the other side of the political aisle of things that aren’t true because we are frustrated that our side isn’t winning. Likewise, speaking with those who hold a different perspective may help us to see why someone else would vote how they do.

How Do Autonomous Cars Work And Are They Safe?

If you have never had the luxury of being chauffeured around to your destination, consider downloading a ridesharing app and give it go. It’s a novel thing. Kind of fun, even.

Still, it’s nice to be in your own car and in control again, especially if you have a bad driver. It can also be less expensive to own and operate your car.

So how can you combine the lower cost of owning a car without giving up on having a personal chauffeur when you don’t feel like driving?

That’s the promise of autonomous cars. Each day you will wake up, your car will pull itself out of the garage with the door open, and drive you to your destination. The vehicle will then either park itself, go run errands, or transport other people to their destination while earning you money.

We are still a ways off from enjoying all the proposed features of autonomous cars, but they are coming.

What Does Autonomous Tech Look Like?

There are six levels of autonomous tech, which breaks down like this:

  • Level Zero – There is no autonomous technology.
  • Level One – The car can maintain cruising speed with the car in front of it, stop the car to avoid an accident, and keep the vehicle centered in between the lines in the road.
  • Level Two – Advances on level one features, allowing the car to steer around sharper turns, make exits, stop at intersections, and steer to avoid accidents.
  • Levels Three – Input your destination on the navigation system and let the car drive itself; requires the driver to be ready to take over.
  • Level Four – Driver no longer required except under exceptional circumstances, such as weather or confusing geography; steering wheel and pedals remain in the car.
  • Level Five – Pedals and steering wheel are gone; driver and passenger not required.

All of these systems currently rely on a mix of cameras, radar, and AI to read the road and recognize other cars and obstacles. In the future, cars may even begin communicating, using real-time satellite data, and other means of information gathering to reach a destination more efficiently.

Many automotive brands offer level one autonomy features as an option or as a standard feature on some or all of their models. Level two features are more rare, with Tesla being the only automaker to see widespread adoption across their lineup.

Are Autonomy Features Safe?

Level one autonomous tech is useful for alerting inattentive drivers of a vehicle that has stopped or slowed, and helping to alleviate fatigue during long trips. On the other hand, when talking about Telsa and their more advanced autonomous tech, things get complicated.

If you have ever seen a video of someone asleep at the wheel of their Telsa, then you can understand the risks. Several people have already died by relying on their Tesla to drive itself, only to have the vehicle become confused by a situation outside of normal circumstances.

For example, one Tesla drove into a dividing barrier at highway speeds because it got confused by the road and couldn’t alert the driver to take over in time. Another driver was watching a movie on his portable DVD player and went under a tractor-trailer pulling out onto a dark road.

Then there was Uber’s attempt at a self-driving car that resulted in the death of a pedestrian who was jaywalking. The worst part is that there was someone behind the wheel of the vehicle, but they weren’t watching the road and didn’t take over to stop the vehicle before striking the person.

Largely, these incidents are outliers. For many brands, their level one autonomy features will deactivate if you take your hands off the wheel for too long. Other automakers, like Tesla, only need you to be seated in the front seat with the seatbelt buckled.

The other problem for Tesla is that they have been bold with their marketing claims around the technology. Their system is known as “Autopilot.” What would a driver think when purchasing and driving the car with a name like that? So when looking at accidents involving inattentive drivers, it could be suggested that Tesla’s marketing claims may have given a false sense of safety to drivers.

This is comparatively different from a company like Ford that refers to its technology as “Ford Driver Assist Technologies.” The idea here is to name the features so the driver knows that they are still responsible for operating the vehicle safely. This helps Ford to avoid any legal grey area that might leave the company vulnerable to a lawsuit if a crash did occur. Of course, salesmen should be educated and restricted from ever suggesting to potential customers that the system is more than a driving aid.

That’s not to say that once Ford deploys level two or three technology that they won’t make stronger claims about taking the driver out of the equation.

When Will Autonomous Tech Be Ready?

The market for self-driving cars could be worth trillions, and that means a lot of companies are jumping in to get to level five autonomy first. The problem is that driving is currently incredibly safe, with one death per every 100 million miles driven.

Will society accept if autonomous cars are slightly less safe because the benefits outweigh the risks?

If an autonomous car hits and kills someone, who is at fault? The owner of the car? The company that sold the car?

Then you have to think about the more philosophical questions. If traveling down the road and two people step out in front of the car from either side of the road, and the vehicle cannot possibly stop, which person does the car hit? If one person is old and one is young, might the car hit the older person? What if the older person is also pregnant? Might the car try to crash itself and kill its passenger to save the pedestrians?

We also didn’t even touch on the risk of a hacker taking control of a driverless car and intentionally hitting people.

These things are not easy to figure out. For now, there is good to be found with autonomous tech. Every day, the more miles that are put onto the cars, the more they improve.

For an aging population that can’t safely drive, autonomous cars could help them to maintain their independence. But, for truck drivers or those who make deliveries, these features will likely make their jobs obsolete.

This technology is new, and most drivers probably don’t even understand it. Acceptance of the risks may come when drivers experience it for themselves. Right now, this tech feels like putting our lives in the hands of an unfeeling robot that can’t be punished if it gets things wrong.

Hopefully, we will see major leaps in the development of this technology and reach a point where 100 percent of accidents are human error, proving that once you remove humans from the equation, the autonomous features simply work better. Eventually, our roads will be full of a generation of people who have never driven a car, and would never think to take control and risk causing an accident.

Pollution and Conservation: Is Climate Change Our Concern?

Broadly speaking, climate change is the natural observable shift in temperature that affects the climate of Earth. For example, at one point in time, a region may have been colder and rainy, but now it is hot and arid; likewise, a lowland area that flooded once in a decade may now flood several times a year. 

These changes can happen for a few reasons. Looking back over thousands and millions of years through the study of paleoclimatology data, we see that these shifts in weather and temperate are normal.

The intensity of the sun, ash from a volcano darkening the sky, and the natural emission and buildup of greenhouse gases are all contributing factors that are beyond our control.

However, 97% of peer-reviewed and actively publishing climate scientists agree that human production of greenhouse gases is responsible for the “temperature anomaly” over the past century. Looking ahead to the year 2100, scientists predict a 3 to 5 degrees Celsius rise in the temperature of Earth, which could dramatically reshape our coastlines, biodiversity, and threaten large swaths of populations on every continent, including North America.

This is where the question of pollution and conservation comes from. What, if anything, should be done?

While climate scientists hold near universal consensus that climate change is real and is happening, not everyone agrees. At least, not in how we should go about addressing concerns about rising temperatures. Climate change is often portrayed as a political issue, for obvious reasons. Our representatives set policy, and the Democrates and Republicans aren’t always in agreement. However, it probably isn’t as divided in the way that you think. 

How Climate Change is Politicized

You will find Republicans who are quick to agree that we should prevent a rise in global temperatures. But just not at the expense of individual freedom and prosperity.  

That is to say, historically, climate regulation has often disproportionately targeted groups of people working in coal or other blue-collar jobs. In contrast, other industries and people that play a role in greenhouse gas emissions, like companies that operate large server farms or factories that are moved overseas to areas with limited pollution regulations, aren’t targeted.

Republicans have been condemned for their apparent rejection of climate science. Sometimes this stubborn rhetoric is born out of ideological concerns that Democrats are guilty of sensationalizing climate change to rile up their base, instill fear, and force through poorly thought-out climate regulation that will increase costs of essential goods and put people out of work. 

For some Republicans, they want to let the free-market find a solution. Incentivize businesses to address the climate issue, create new jobs, and continue making life better for people without making government bigger.

Except, among Democrats, there can be a distrust that the private sector won’t do anything more than half-measures while seeking to reap enormous profits at the expense of everyone else. So democrats want sweeping regulatory changes and spending of tax money to force a shift to renewable energy, among other policy changes.

While politicians aren’t too keen on giving in to the other side, we shouldn’t forget about the consumers. Just like with voters voting at the ballet, consumers vote with their dollars. 

Do Consumers Care?

What we’re seeing is that consumers aren’t too keen on spending more money on a product that claims to be environmentally friendly without getting more for that investment. Worse yet, those “planet-saving products,” such as Tesla cars, are beyond the budget of most families.

So up until this point, we have made do with minor steps taken across many industries to slowly force change, such as making appliances consume less energy or increasing fuel economy standards. This makes everyone move forward a little, but just not at the pace that some would like.

Should More be Done?

The fact that we have acknowledged climate change exists, and efforts have been made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through existing regulations, shows that we can take positive steps. But we should not be waiting around for policy.

If you have concerns about your immune system, you wouldn’t sit around waiting for your body to improve on its own. You would reach for a supplement from a brand like Sunwarrior, Terry Naturally, or Apricot Power to help support your body’s needs each day. Similarly, waiting around for the Earth to be fixed doesn’t appear to be taking place – The Earth needs a powerful supplement.

We agree that climate change is a human concern, but that’s not the real question. The real question is, what are we willing to sacrifice to make the necessary change? This is where things get muddled, and the issue goes beyond plastic bags and paper straws, Energy Star labels, and simply talking about what we would like to change.

Americans, per capita, produce more greenhouse gases than any other country. China produces the most overall, but considering many countries have outsourced manufacturing to the Pacific region, it makes sense that China’s contribution to greenhouse gases would rise dramatically. 

To reverse this, we have to use less energy. That means making practical changes each day, such as driving less, setting the thermostat hotter in summer and colder in winter, eating fewer calories to reduce carbon dioxide from the agriculture sector, and buying more local goods. 

All of us could agree that action should be taken to stop a rise in the global temperature, but how quickly would you disagree if it meant your thermostat would be rationed or that your car now costs more because it must be a hybrid or fully electric?

We are at a crossroads. Consumers don’t want to give up access to inexpensive goods and services that are all thanks to greenhouse gas emitting energy sources, and politicians don’t want to be in the crosshairs of their constituents by supporting the wrong thing. The way we think about pollution and conservation, unfortunately, is conflicted.

All of use should reflect each day momentarily and decide what we want the world to look like heading into the year 2100. Whether change happens by advocating for policy, or we set the thermostat differently, we are in uncharted waters and we have everything to lose and nobody else to blame for our individual and collective decision making.