As the 2008 U.S. elections loom ever closer, the world’s many eyes are focused on who will become the next President and thus lead us into the nation (and world) after Bush. This election has garnered a tremendous, unprecedented amount of energy and activity amongst individuals of all demographics. As such, the next few weeks will bring only an increase in the electricity sizzling through our daily lives.
But even with this exceptional, and long overdue, participation in the political process by the general populous, you may still feel like your vote makes no difference in the long run, like you cannot really do anything to determine how the government runs–and runs your life. So you may feel like telling the politicians, pollsters, politicos, and button-toting supporters to “Go Fish!”
When it comes to real live fish, however, you now can have a genuine impact on making the fishing industry more sustainable. My friend and fellow blogger Mark Powell at the Ocean Conservancy is helping spearhead the organization’s FishVote08, which harnesses the power of democracy to help save different fish species.
Much as you would hit the polls and cast your vote in government elections–or try to, barring any hanging “chads” or other technical difficulties–in FishVote08 you cast your vote for your favorite threatened fish. When you go to the voting website, you can learn about the different “candidates” being targeted by the Ocean Conservancy–and learn about why each species is in trouble.
Thus, in FishVote08, you can vote for salmon and help undo years of excessive harvesting, poor fisheries management, habitat destruction, and mixing of hatchery-raised and wild species, just to name a few problems threatening salmon. Or you can vote for shrimp, which are in ample numbers but create problems because of the trawling nets most fishermen use. Another fishy “candidate” is the tuna, which is both well known (think of the netted dolphins and turtles) and crucial because it has such a vast range.
FishVote08 is a great project because you get to do more than just make a statement or express your opinion, and you do so in an active way rather than by simply boycotting an unsustainable product in the store.
After all votes are cast, the Ocean Conservancy will focus its efforts on improving conditions related to the candidate that wins the “popular” vote. As Mark puts it in his blog post on FishVote08,
Starting with the winner, Ocean Conservancy will identify practical steps towards sustainability for unsustainable fisheries and rally seafood lovers to support this progress. Actions might include supporting new regulations, rewarding seafood businesses that promote sustainability, and building markets that reward innovative fishermen.
Even better than directing a major organization’s future actions, you also have an impact on every level of the seafood market. While simply avoiding unsustainable products in the store might seem like an effective way to tell the industry to go green, in fact the “just say no” approach is not really a good way to make a difference.
Mark lists five important reasons why turning up your nose in the seafood aisle will not do much to change fishing industry practices. For example, there is no real chance to reduce the demand for these products, neither consumers nor fishermen have control on the supply chain for seafood, and poor labeling standards make shopping wisely very difficult.
Clearly, FishVote08 offers a fun, effective way for everyone–even vegetarians and vegans like me–to cast a vote for greener (or bluer) seas.
The only problem, though, is that the rallies for each FishVote08 candidate may smell a bit funky…i.e., fishy.
Then again, a gathering of screaming, fist-pumping, adrenaline-pumped political human animals surely cannot smell all that great either.