Custom artwork by Ellen Smith
Humans have been eating animals from the sea for a very long time. An author who dove into British Library collections to look at this states that, “Anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) have been eating seafood for at least 164,000 years. Caves in South Africa contain the very earliest evidence for humans eating shellfish, as well as evidence for humans eating shallow-water fish 140,000 years ago…complex fishing equipment probably did not arise until much later…the oldest known fishing hooks come from a cave in East Timor, South-East Asia, dating to 40,000 years BC”. Humans over time have massively expanded the practice of wild catch fishing and have also introduced fish farming. The tools used for each of these types of fishing have increased exponentially since those first hooks in East Timor. Catch fishing has beach and boat seines, bottom trawls, dredges, gillnets, handlines and jigs, harpoons, longlines, midwater trawls, poles-and-lines, pots, purse seines, and trolling lines. And fish farming (aquaculture) has: bottom culture, flowthrough raceways, net pens, off-bottom culture, ponds, and recirculating tanks. Fishing is serious business, with serious ramifications, so let’s dive in and take a look at it.
Fishery is a term used to describe how humans deal with taking fish and other sea animals from the oceans for commercial purposes. There are two basic types of marine fisheries that exist (for the sole purpose of producing food for human consumption): wild catch fisheries (take fish from wild populations) and aquaculture fisheries (grow fish for taking). What do you know about the world’s fisheries at present? I have observed in my conversations about fisheries with people of all ages and backgrounds that the vast majority know almost nothing about the present state of the world’s fisheries. I feel deeply concerned about this because I have a need for healthy oceans (we all have this need whether we realize it or not) and I would like people to immediately take personal actions that support healthy oceans. I think that the significance of the oceans for sustaining life on Earth is grossly overlooked by most, and I’m not talking about eating fish. I’m talking about oxygen production, climate moderation, global weather patterns, etc.
So how are the wild fisheries doing these days? Here are a series of statements and statistics issued from Oceana regarding their current status:
- global overfishing and other unsustainable fishing practices have depleted 75% of commercial fish populations and degraded the ecosystems that support them (Scientific American reports that, “the amount of fish in the oceans has halved since 1970, in a plunge to the brink of collapse caused by over-fishing and other threats”)
- all major commercial fisheries projected to collapse within the next 50 years if current trends are not reversed
- 90% of all the “big fish” – tuna, marlin, and swordfish – are gone, the near total depletion of these fish populations occurred in only a few decades, coinciding with the introduction of industrialized fishing (yet still, global fleets continue to increase fishing of major tuna species despite the fact that most populations are in need of immediately reduced fishing pressure in order to attempt to recover)
- major factor in the decline in fishery resources is the impact of distant water fleets, which travel far from their home ports to exploit fisheries in the high seas and in some cases the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of other countries
Clearly, wild fisheries for which there is information are not doing well, and yet billions of people depend on them. There certainly are groups working hard on fisheries management, essentially trying to maintain sustainable exploitation, with some stories of success and some of failure. This management picture is very complicated, going back for generations, and is mired in political, cultural, scientific and environmental discourse. Governmental attempts at fisheries management is relatively new (mid 1900’s), it used to be something done just amongst the local cultures dependent on particular ocean resources. Now we’ve got parties from all over the globe trying to identify and agree upon international rules that govern the oceans and seas, bodies of water who know no international and/or political boundaries. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing are rampant in this atmosphere, and who knows how much is removed from the world’s oceans from these practices. It’s proven to be very difficult to enforce any agreed upon management strategies across the vastness of the oceans and human cultures. There are also a growing number of groups out there focusing on sustainable aquaculture fisheries. Despite the bad wrap aquaculture sometimes receives, there is likely no going forward as a global human population who eats fish and other sea animals without it.
With the big fish 90% gone, placing the total burden of reproductive pressure on the next reproductively active generation in a population, what’s going on at the other end of the size spectrum? The smaller fish are being harvested like crazy for anything from fish oil to pet food. From a study conducted at Stanford, “We’ve known for a long time that small species can collapse but most of the emphasis in conservation and fisheries management has been on larger species. What surprised us was that all the instances of small fish stock collapses over the past 50 years added up to just as many as for larger predators. The researchers originally thought fish populations would respond to pressure the same way animal populations do on land, where habitat loss affects big animals more dramatically than small creatures. But after researchers analyzed more than 200 studies of fisheries worldwide, they realized things are different, and perhaps more dire, in the sea. After all, humans control which species we harvest most heavily. Stocks of small fish generally recover from a detrimental event faster than stocks of large fish do because small fish typically don’t live as long, and reproduce faster than their predators. When overfishing pushes a population of small fish too far it can cancel this inherent resilience. Overfishing isn’t the only factor. Small, short-lived species are very sensitive to natural fluctuations in ocean temperature. We need to quickly back off our fishing pressure at those times. Otherwise it’s easy to drive these species to collapse.” This of course affects everything that relies on those smaller fish for food, and adds insult to injury for the remaining larger predatory fish who may go hungry.
In looking at wild catch fisheries, bycatch absolutely cannot be ignored. This refers to the portion of a commercial fishing catch that consists of marine animals caught and killed unintentionally, which is a massive “side-effect” of many of the indiscriminant commercial/industrial fishing practices currently going on. Many fisheries are believed to throw away more fish than they keep. One of the biggest offenders of the bycatch problem is the bottom trawling shrimp fishery. This fishery is said to often produce six pounds of bycatch for every one pound of shrimp harvested, often destroying in the process everything along the ocean floor where the bottom trawler was dragged. I’m pretty sure we have all seen photos of the sharks, turtles, seals, dolphins, sea birds, coral reefs, etc innocently caught up in fishing gear. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), “It is estimated that over 300,000 small whales, dolphins, and porpoises die from entanglement in fishing nets each year, making this the single largest cause of mortality for small cetaceans. Species such as the vaquita from the Gulf of California and Maui’s dolphin from New Zealand face imminent extinction from the threat of unselective fishing. Hundreds of thousands of endangered loggerhead turtles (~200,000) and critically endangered leatherback turtles (~50,000) drown annually on longlines set for tuna, swordfish, and other fish. Incidental capture of turtles by longlines, trawls and gillnets is the single greatest threat to the survival of most populations”. Compounding the bycatch issue is the enormous amount of “ghost gear”, fishing gear that is lost or abandoned at sea, floating around the oceans, entrapping animals, getting entangled on coral reefs and washing up on beaches all over the planet. A report released by the World Animal Protection (WAP) revealed that at least 640,000 metric tons of ghost gear, including nets, lines and traps, are lost or abandoned in the ocean every year. According to WAP, lost gear is four times more likely to trap and kill marine animals than all other forms of marine debris combined, and it’s also contributing to the plastic problem, as more than 70 percent of macroplastics by weight are related to fishing (please read my post on ocean plastics to lean more).
Adding to the complexity of fisheries and their management is the issue of government subsidies. Dr. Rashid Sumaila at the University of British Colombia states that, “the world’s fishing fleet is too big, and fish stocks are dwindling. Many fleets are even losing money. Yet fishing continues, fueled by government subsidies that pay fishers to stay at sea, even when they catch too little to turn a profit”. What is up with government fishing subsidies? This is one of those things that no matter what angle I look at it from, it just doesn’t make sense. Sumaila describes that, “In theory, fisheries should be self-regulating. When fish stocks get too low, or fishing gets too expensive, workers and investments should move out of the fishery. But in practice, unprofitable fleets can continue fishing — and can even grow larger — when they receive government subsidies. The problem is enormous. In a 2015 study, my group estimated that global fishing subsidies in 2009 were $35 billion, between 30 and 40 percent of the total value earned by marine fisheries worldwide. As a result of this artificial profit-boosting, and general mismanagement, the global fishing fleet is about twice the size the ocean can sustainably support”. Talk about being mired in politics, what a sticky subject. Read more about fisheries subsidies in the article, “Dollars for disaster: Daniel Pauly and Rashid Sumaila discuss how governments subsidize overfishing”.
Another problematic issue is seafood fraud. You think you are eating the Atlantic Cod that you ordered at the restaurant for dinner, but in reality, anywhere between 25% and 70% of the time you are being served something else altogether, something that is either cheaper or more readily available. And actually the Atlantic Cod fishery collapsed years ago, so ya, don’t order that.
Oceana discusses the global problem of seafood fraud saying that, “Seafood fraud is the practice of misleading consumers about their seafood in order to increase profits. Along with ripping off shoppers, these actions can have negative impacts on marine conservation efforts and human health. Types of seafood fraud include substituting one species for another without changing the label, including less seafood in the package than is indicated on the label, adding too much ice to seafood in order to increase the weight, and shipping seafood products through different countries in order to avoid duties and tariffs. Although seafood is one of the most popular foods in the United States, consumers are routinely given little or no information about where their seafood is from. Plus, the information provided on seafood labels is often misleading or fraudulent. Partly in response to a decline in U.S. fisheries, 84 percent of the seafood eaten in the U.S. is imported, and it follows an increasingly complex path from a fishing boat to our plates. Despite the fact that most seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, only two percent is currently inspected by the FDA”. Seafood fraud is also a way for illegally caught fish to make their way into the legal seafood markets. Efforts are underway to use genetic testing to identify and call out fraud, and policy changes are being pushed that would lend some traceability to the seafood supply chain. This kind of deception just adds to the complexity of working towards successful fisheries management. Consumer awareness and standards here are really important, be in the know about what you are eating.
Fish and seafood are touted by many healthcare people as being a critical part of a healthy diet, and people all over the world rely on these foods for their source of protein. However, please don’t overlook all of the research out there pointing out the fact that fish and other seafood aren’t necessarily the clean source of protein that they once were with various toxins, heavy metals and radioactive materials making their way through the entire ocean food chain, accumulating in concentration as you move up. If you weren’t already aware of it, the omega-3 craze is full on these days. The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that nearly 19 million people in the US alone use fish oil supplements (derived from the tissues of oily fish). But given the toxicity issue of fish, and the immense pressure on the fisheries that supply the fish for these products, now I see a push from some healthcare people to instead consume krill oil. One blog touting how amazing krill oil is states that, “Even Dr. Oz has been raving about its powerful impact!”. Whoa, well then, sign me up! Geez, are you kidding me? Krill, little shrimp-like crustaceans, represent a massive link in the global food chain. They feed on phytoplankton, and in turn are the main staple in the diets of literally hundreds of different fish, birds, and whales. It probably comes as no surprise (I hope) to hear that sucking krill out of the oceans on a massive scale to squish the oil out of them is not without consequence, despite what the companies responsible for doing it want to you believe, read more about it to learn more.
A conversation on modern fisheries cannot and should not go without discussing aquaculture, the farming of aquatic organisms. The earliest evidence of fish farming dates back to before 1000 BC in China. Around 500 BC, the Romans farmed oysters and fish in Mediterranean lagoons, and farming carp in ponds led to the complete domestication of this species in the Middle Ages, which is also when mussel farming began, following a technique that remained largely unchanged until the 20th century. The modern practice of aquaculture, however, was borne out of a reaction to an era of rapid industrialization and resultant pollution causing fish stock declines, and dams and irrigation canals disrupting natural migratory paths of some species such as salmon. Modern aquaculture was fast tracked by the invention of artificial food pellets and better and cheaper building materials, and is an attempt to deal with the increasing demands for seafood in light of the fact that wild catch fishing is plummeting, primarily from overfishing. According to a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization 2016 report, “In terms of global production volume, that of farmed fish and aquatic plants combined surpassed that of capture fisheries in 2013”. Aquaculture certainly comes with its own challenges and problems, but here is a thorough, articulate presentation on the importance of aquaculture in todays’ world, watch it and decide for yourself.
The global demand for fish and other seafood has already grown well beyond what the wild ocean populations can supply, as we can see from collapsing fisheries worldwide, so unless that demand all of a sudden stops, aquaculture certainly needs to be a big part of the picture going forward. We, in general as a global modern society, don’t hunt the cows or pigs or chickens or goats that we eat, so why are we still hunting fish? It’s not working anymore, the red flags are flying all over the place.
Different cultures use the ocean in different ways and it is an extremely complex social issue to shift some of these practices that are steeped in history but that have a profound global impact on the oceans and seas. China, for example, is obsessed with shark fin soup, considering it a delicacy, a symbol of class and wealth. In the practice of shark finning, for creating this bowl of soup, the sharks are typically caught, the fins are cut off, and the alive bleeding shark is thrown overboard to suffer an incredibly inhumane death. Nice symbol of class and wealth. Not. It is estimated that between 26 and 73 million (big discrepancy there between those numbers) sharks are killed each year for shark fin soup alone, that’s about 1.5 million per week. Per week! Think about that number, can you even picture 1.5 million sharks? How is that even remotely sustainable? It’s not. Shark populations are plummeting worldwide, being plucked from the ocean at a rate much faster than they can reproduce. It is estimated that excessive fishing has caused a 90% decline in shark populations across the world’s oceans and up to 99% along the US east coast, which are some of the best-managed waters in the world.
While we are on the topic of sharks, I can’t help but mention a ‘shark control’ program in Queensland Australia (the territory adjacent to The Great Barrier Reef) where hundreds of sharks are caught offshore in ‘drumlines’, an unmanned aquatic trap used to lure and capture large sharks using baited hooks, so that people swimming in the ocean are safe from the 26 species of shark which Australia lists as being a ‘threat to humans’. The sharks are either caught dead or killed. Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said in a statement that the shark control program would continue, and the Government remained committed to the safety of Queenslanders and the tourists who visited and enjoyed the state’s beaches, “While we continue to monitor emerging technology, the safety of swimmers is paramount, and until alternatives are found that work better in Queensland waters, the program will continue”. Way to go Mr. Furner, glad to know where you stand, which is firmly planted in your anthropocentric fear-based loafers. If you don’t like sharks, don’t swim in their home, pretty simple, it’s a risk you take, like any other. Less than 100 people have been reported killed by sharks in Queensland waters over the last 165 years. Just for a little perspective, there were 205 deaths reported in 2016 alone from car crashes in Queensland. I wonder what Mr. Furner has to say about those pesky cars causing all that death to Queenslanders? They should probably be trapped and killed too since safety is paramount. Yes, I’m sure you are getting the gist that I’m angry about it. Aren’t you?
Another example of a cultural ocean practice that has global implications is whaling. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) recognizes three types of whaling: commercial whaling, scientific whaling and aboriginal subsistence whaling. Norway, Iceland and Japan are the big three still involved in commercial whaling. Although Japan, a signatory to the IWC moratorium on whale hunting since 1986, is exploiting a loophole trying to claim their whaling practices fall under the scientific, or special permit, whaling umbrella. Why anyone would need to kill ~300 whales each year (often pregnant females) for “scientific research” is a question of great suspect and concern. I personally, like many others around the globe, call BS! (Japan has made no secret of the fact that whale meat ends up on dinner tables and is served in school lunches). Can we not be done already with poking, prodding, cutting and killing animals for “scientific research”? While Japan takes a lot of the international heat for their whaling practices, in large part I think because of the blatant lie that they are used for research, Norway and Iceland continue to whale commercially. It is believed that Norway kills more whales each year than Japan and Iceland combined. But the demand for whale meat in Norway is so small that it has been uncovered that instead it’s ending up in the feed manufactured for animals on fur farms. Apparently Norway has a thriving fur industry. Last year, it exported 258 tons of fox skins and 1,000 tons of mink skins to the European Union. Wearing fur coats, another symbol of class and wealth. Doesn’t seem too classy to me.
In the Solomon Islands, there is a tradition of slaughtering large numbers of pantropical spotted dolphins. In the first three months of 2018 alone, 700+ have been killed by villagers in Fanalei, Solomon Islands. Dolphin Project reports that, “Home to the largest drive slaughter of dolphins in the world, annual kills between the years 1976-2013 averaged 850 dolphins per year. For centuries, dolphins have been hunted in a traditional manner using simple tools such as canoes and stones, which are hit together beneath the surface to corral the dolphins into a nearby mangrove cove. The dolphins are loaded into canoes and ferried back to the village beach, where they are lined up, decapitated and shared out. Almost the entire village assists. No part of the animal is wasted, with meat and teeth prized by the Fanalei people. From childhood, villagers learn to treasure kirio (Lau for dolphin) teeth and meat. Wearing dolphin teeth at key life events such as weddings reflects the high social value and prestige of kirio and of the skilled, unified and brave hunters”. Another example of something related to killing ocean creatures representing status symbols in human culture.
I was recently in Ambergris Caye, Belize and did a bunch of SCUBA diving on the reefs there. Belize is home to the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere and has three of only four coral atolls in the western hemisphere. I dove these same reefs 15 years ago and definitely noticed a stark change. This time around, I saw hardly any fish, big or small, and the corals were struggling from algal overgrowth, signs of bleaching and the aftermath of hurricane damage. What I did see were inordinate amounts of nurse sharks that would follow us around on our dives like puppy dogs. What I came to understand about this was that the dive masters carry a polespear (a particular type of spearfishing pole) with them to spear and kill as many invasive lionfish as possible, the nurse sharks waiting in the wings for their meal to be delivered on a silver spear. In talking to our local dive guide who grew up there and has been diving on the reefs since he was a little boy, he said that overfishing is the biggest problem they face down there with concern to the coral reef ecosystem. He wasn’t talking about just commercial fishing either, but highlighted the problem of the individual spear fishermen and women who come in and take indiscriminately – taking species that are considered out of season, or that are illegal to take at all or are simply way too small for taking. He said kids who are learning to spearfish will kill anything and everything they can (where’s the education from the elders on this?), people coming from neighboring countries who may not understand or care about respecting the legal size or take limits will do the same. Also, recreational sport fishing is firmly planted in the Belize tourism picture, with catch and release being merely optional and not truly encouraged by many of the local fishing guides who instead sell the idea of the catch being cooked up for a BBQ on the beach experience. Here is an excerpt from a Belize tourism guide website: “Local fishing lodges and resorts believe strongly in protecting the local fishery. With some exceptions, most fish are released but this is at the option of the angler and his guide – after all – what can replace a fresh catch of fish barbecued on the beach?”. Well let’s see, if you’re paying thousands of dollars to come down to Belize to sportfish, then you probably want to catch some fish, so maybe don’t eat all of them? I talked to a group of fisherman visiting from the US for just this type of sport fishing as they were exiting their boat who said they pulled 80 pounds of fish from the ocean that day, kept 10 pounds for themselves and gave the other 70 pounds to the local guide. I’m assuming that the fish was not wasted by the local guide, but this just goes to show how much was caught and kept beyond what the paying fishermen could consume.
Here’s one more cultural example to bring it home. The US seems to be obsessed with tuna, salmon, cod and shrimp. The tuna fish sandwich or tuna casserole or spicy tuna roll, the lemon dill salmon fillet or lox and bagels, the filet-o-fish sandwich or fish sticks, the shrimp cocktail or coconut shrimp…all American mainstays.
I’d like to focus here on the US wild caught salmon fishery story, a story that sounds eerily similar to the those of many other US industries, it’s shipped overseas in favor of cheap labor. Why? Because in general, Americans don’t like to buy a fish that still has its head on it or to pick bones out of their beautiful salmon steaks, so processing is required and we don‘t seem to like to pay our own people to do these sorts of things. We supply the world with nearly 1/3 of the wild salmon that is eaten, and 1/10 of all salmon if you include aquaculture. Washington, Oregon, and Northern California used to be abound with king and coho salmon, but a dam building spree in the 1930’s and 40’s destroyed those fisheries, so now Alaska (Bristol Bay to be specific) is the last frontier for American wild salmon – and this region is presently under threat from mining interests (little do they realize that the salmon is actually worth more than the gold they want to dig for). Yet more than half of the salmon caught in America is going overseas, and Americans are often eating salmon that comes from farms in Chile, Canada and Norway and from processing factories in China. Journalist Paul Greenberg argues in his book ‘American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood’ that it’s the result of an American seafood ignorance that could threaten both the country’s long-term status as a fishing powerhouse and its secure supply of nutritious protein. He says that, “for a long time, when Alaskan fishermen sold their salmon to processing plants in China, after it was defrosted, filleted, deboned, and refrozen, it would be shipped back to the US. Nowadays, a rising share of American-caught salmon is simply staying in Asia, thanks to China’s surging wealth and Japan’s dwindling fish supply”. It has sort of become our culture to ship what are perceived as unwanted jobs overseas for profit margins.
Fishery & Human Management
Fisheries management ultimately is more about managing humans than it is about managing fish stocks. Like nearly any other thing that humans consider commodities, it’s the human demand that drives everything else. If there wasn’t such a colossal demand for fish and seafood, the world’s oceans and seas would not be in this mess. The pressure on all these marine species to try and basically just keep up, and not completely collapse, is driven by our appetites for fish and other sea animals. It is estimated that total global production of fish and fishery products from capture fisheries and aquaculture currently stands at around 140 million metric tons per year (~309 billion pounds). Per year, that’s a per year number! That’s roughly 40 pounds for every human being on this planet, every year. There’s a difference between someone facing malnutrition or starvation needing fish for food and someone at a high-end sushi bar in some big city (which may or may not even be anywhere near the ocean) needing fish for food. I want to clearly state that I am fully aware that there are a lot of island and coastal peoples that have relied on ocean resources for their history as a people, there’s cultural significance, and many truly do still rely on ocean creatures out of necessity for sustenance. There are also a lot of people who rely on fishing, wild capture fishing and aquaculture combined, to make a living, ~56 million people worldwide is a published estimate. So it is important to understand that there is a spectrum here of human need and reliance on ocean “resources”, and I deeply respect that. It is currently estimated that 40% of the world’s population lives within 100km of a coastline, that’s really intense pressure on coastal ecosystems. However, of the 7.6 billion people currently living on this planet (projected to be 9 billion by 2050), many of us in total honesty do not need to rely on eating ocean creatures as part of our diets given what’s going on in the oceans (and certainly neither do our pets – check your pet food).
So what’s a person to do? I suggest trying not to eat wild caught fish or other sea animals, or cutting your consumption back significantly while choosing very consciously and wisely those species that you do eat, or looking into fish and seafood produced through aquaculture. Get informed, check out Consumer Guides on this.
The choices that every single one of us make every single day matter! Talk to your family members, friends and community members about these issues. Be a beacon of change in the circles that you run. Bring these ocean creatures into your hearts rather than into your stomachs. Social change starts in each of our hearts and expands from there. Throwing our hands up and saying ‘f*** it’ is not going to help anything. Every time a person chooses not to eat fish or other sea animals be it once, twice, 50 times, 100 times, forever…that can only help them. I’m not a huge fan of viewing ocean animals simply as “resources” because I think that creates a disconnect around the fact that these are sentient creatures living out their lives just as we are – I do not support the philosophical viewpoint of anthropocentrism, but I suppose that’s an issue for a different post.
Sylvia Earle, arguably the leading ocean steward of our time, shares a well-articulated discussion about eating seafood. I often hear these kinds of statements when I bring up the idea of severely cutting back on or stopping all together our individual consumption of ocean animals, “but I love my seafood, I couldn’t give up sushi, I’m a vegetarian who doesn’t eat meat only fish (duh…fish is meat), but my fish oil supplements, how will I get my omega-3’s?…”. I get it, I really do, it can feel super daunting and confusing and depressing to examine our relationships with what we eat, where it comes from and what impact eating it might have, I’m definitely not immune to that. Everything has a cause and effect. It presents some sort of moral conundrum. I essentially stopped eating fish and seafood about 20 years ago after studying marine biology in undergraduate school and oceanography in graduate school, where my learning about many of the things that I have discussed in this post was spurred. I eat something out of the ocean maybe once or twice a year. I usually fall for the succulent lobster or crab, don’t forget the melted butter, and I love sushi; Chu toro, hamachi, yummy. But I just can’t do it. They need to be left alone to attempt to replenish their populations and survive, and hopefully thrive, in the face of quickly changing environments. Marine Protected Areas and Hope Spots are fantastic and absolutely necessary, but likely not enough. There are difficult decisions and changes to be made when actionably recognizing that sustaining humanity, and all of Earth’s other creatures, now urgently requires putting the health of the planet first. Wasn’t it the band Foreigner who sings, “…urgent, urgent, emergency”? I know that people tend to shy away from things that are deemed “urgent”, it can feel overwhelming and scary, sometimes leaving you in a state of numb paralysis, but that’s where we are at with these big fisheries. If it isn’t urgent now, then when is it? What do you need to stoke the fires that call you into action? Please get on board with doing your part, using your infinite volition, to truly lessen the impact that humans are having on the marine fish and other sea creatures of this planet.