Capitalism can sometimes be very confusing to figure out, especially with the complex interrelations of the world economy and the different banking laws and corporate structures and all the national forms economies take. It would be helpful if we had a very simple way to look at it and figure it out. A simple model of how this system works that we could extrapolate to the whole system to understand it the better. I propose to discuss what is happening to the fish in the seas and to suggest that their fate under capitalism is just a smaller version of the fate that awaits us all if we allow this economic system to continue to dominate our lives and our planet. My information is taken from Science Daily.

As we are well aware, the world’s oceans used to teem with sea life, and great flotillas of fishing vessels have scowered the seas to catch this life and bring it to market to feed a hungry world [at least a hungry rich northern world] and to make a profit – especially a profit. If a particular species of fish could bring in a good profit, it would be fished to extinction to obtain that profit rather than be allowed to recover to be fished again some day in the future. It is not a sustainable food supply that capitalism seeks to create, but immediate profits on its investments. This is, by the way, why humane farming laws are difficult to enact and almost impossible to enforce.

At any rate, the SD article reports that scientists at the University of British Columbia have published a study that shows since the 1950s large marine predators such as marlins, swordfish, tunas and sharks have declined by 90 percent and have practically been wiped out in the northern Pacific and Atlantic by commercial fishing. These commercial fish, having been hunted to near extinction in the northern hemisphere, are no longer sought in great numbers in the north by the fishing fleets. After sweeping them out of the coastal areas of the northern continents and islands, the fleets scoured the open seas and have now headed to the southern hemisphere where they intend to continue their unsustainable fishing methods to maintain their profits, pillaging the coasts and the open waters of the Indian and South Pacific and Atlantic oceans as well as the Antarctic Ocean. 

One of the researchers mentioned in the SD article and lead author of the study, Laura Tremblay-Boyer, was quoted as saying, “Species such as tuna have been seriously exploited because of high market demand. A constant theme throughout of global marine ecosystems is these top predators are today prey for human beings, assisted by some serious technology. Top marine predators are more intrinsically vulnerable to the effects of fishing due to their life histories. Bluefin tuna, for instance, cannot reproduce until age nine.” But the demand for fish from the markets of the north has not ceased. And now, the same shortages are beginning to appear in the southern oceans.

“After running out of predator fish in the north Atlantic and Pacific,” co-author of the study Daniel Pauly said, “rather than implementing strict management and enforcement, the fishing industry pointed its bows south. The southern hemisphere predators are now on the same trajectory as the ones in the northern hemisphere. What happens next when we have nowhere left to turn?”

A good question. This is exactly the same behavior we have seen the capitalists engaging in with respect to climate change. Cancun, Copenhagen, and now Durban. No binding agreements – in fact, the major world leaders didn’t even bother to show up for the Durban conference – and it is breathable air and temperatures compatible with life that is the issue. What happens next when we have nowhere left to turn?


Thomas Riggins
Thomas Riggins

Thomas Riggins has a background in philisophy, anthropology and archeology. He writes from New York, NY. Riggins was associate editor of Political Affairs magazine.