'Something Very Fishy About A Fund To Pillage The Ocean' - Guest Blog Post by Doug Woodring

HONG KONG - A recent Bloomberg article (22 July 2010), talked of a new “fish” fund by the asset manager Amundi, (a merger of Crédit Agricole’s and Société Générale’s asset management businesses). What a tragedy this is. This is similar to offering a rain forest depletion fund, or a real estate project in a panda wildlife refuge. Why? Because the world’s fish stocks have dwindled, (not “are” dwindling), by enormous amounts in the last 30 years. This comes with the advent of new technologies and capabilities for ocean going vessels and equipment that can sweep clean a section of water the size of small states in a matter of hours. The world does not know what is going on because very few can track the worlds’ fishing fleets, many of which are new to the game and are excited to be able to catch some of what is left, and be able to sell that to the high consumption countries of Asia.

In China, seafood consumption increased by 2kg per person from 2001 to 2007. That might not sound like a lot, but multiply that by 1.3bn, and then remember that global fish resources are already highly under threat. Now blend in the fact that there continues to be a large amount of by-catch for many products which gets wasted, and the fact that fish farming requires a large multiple of small fish, just to feed the fish in the farm to become sellable to the market.   

The fund states that as people become richer, they will eat healthier food, and will follow global trends like that of sushi. Sushi is easily one of the worst things that has happened to the planet, yet no one has realized it yet. The industry’s wealthy allure for vendors, and high-status image for consumers, has led bluefin tuna to be an endangered species. No, this is not “official”, because the strong fishing nations of the world blatantly lobbied against “endangered species status” at the recent UN Doha talks.

The planet is 2/3 covered by water, and much of what lives underneath the surface, and how it lives, and survives, is still unknown. The ones who know, are the fisherman, but they only know their own waters, and they know they are becoming devoid of fish. So, they find investors and government subsidies to buy larger boats, and mover farther afield, to wipe new sections of ocean clean. In contrast, one of the good stories for the ocean, and proof that no-take fishing zones work incredibly well to let the ocean rebuild itself, is off of the coast of Somalia. Yes, this is where the pirates are, and they started their activities originally to keep foreign fishing fleets away from their waters, as they did not have boats nearly the size of the ocean going vessels that were raping their waters. Now, these waters are completely free of fishing boats, and the Kenyan fisherman are having some of the best catches in history. We should thank them for showing us this lesson, but is anyone learning and watching?

For those of you out there looking to invest, think seriously about the social sustainability of this fund. You might think the growth trends are there for consumption, but the ocean’s ability to reproduce for all of those hungry consumers is already almost at its limit. The writing is on the wall, and right in their own backyard. Do a Google search on the giant jellyfish in the Japan Sea. Jellyfish are like cockroaches on land, and are the last thing able to survive in the ocean when it is about to die. They are a warning sign that the ocean in some places, is now almost dead, and these creatures are hundreds of pounds in size, “ruining” the fishing industry in that part of the world as they do damage to their nets. This is simply the ocean trying, with one last gasp, to tell us that enough is enough. Unfortunately, the Asian consumers do not even have the information yet to realize that much of what is coming from the sea is now polluted, regardless of where they are being caught. This information is now becoming more understood in the scientific world, but they have simply not been digested yet in the minds of those eating. Likely, they are being digested in other ways.

With the growing trend in socially responsible investing, it is fairly shocking to see a new fund enter into the market that promotes the demise of an already very frail ecosystem. Just because there is growth in consumption and a market does not mean it is sustainable. In fact, it often means the opposite when natural resources are involved, particularly when the consuming population is in the billions.

In a place like the ocean, where so little is still known, investing in this fund would be like investing in companies that offer night hunting in the world’s wildlife reserves.  

Doug Woodring

Co-Founder, Project Kaisei

Hong Kong

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The tuna photos above, (bluefin and yellowfin), are out-takes from my Kesen-numa shark fin shoot earlier this month.


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