Killing Nemo


Illustration by Thomas Timlen


Children’s cinema has a way of portraying the world’s environment in wonderful balance. Adorable talking wild animals, thriving in lush forests and jungles. A planet with expansive colourful oceans of abundant clear clean water.

Meanwhile back in the real world, Earth’s climate deteriorates before our eyes (for those brave enough to take an honest look), whilst grownups convince themselves that technological advances will protect “the ecological and the economic well-being of the planet”.

Whether or not the planet is concerned with its economic well-being is a question that I will allow you to consider on your own.

Turning to the planet’s ecological well-being, one recent global effort to protect the oceans that failed to make the headlines is the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, also known as the  BWM Convention.

On 8 September 2016 the required number of ratifying countries was finally reached, which means that the convention becomes international law in 2017.

The goal of the BWM Convention is to protect marine eco-systems by preventing organisms, many only microscopic in size, from being transported in ships’ ballast tanks from one part of the world to another.

There have been real problems in which local fish and other aquatic species have been wiped out when a foreign species moved into the neighbourhood. Consider a fox family moving into a chicken coop, or someone placing barracudas in a goldfish bowl, and you will pretty much get the picture.

So, yes, the BWN Convention does address a real threat to marine ecosystems, however, considering other, perhaps greater threats facing the Earth’s oceans, is this too little, too late?

Sadly this may be yet another inconvenient truth, when you consider other large scale threats to the world’s oceans.

The Dead Zones and Factory Fishing

Fish, like all animals, need oxygen for survival. Like humans seeking fresh air, fish cannot always find the oxygen that they desperately need, and the problem is getting worse. The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) reports that the number of known oxygen-starved areas, a.k.a.: “Dead Zones“, has doubled since 1990 to nearly 150, with some stretching 70,000 square kilometres, about the size of Ireland.

Then there is the insatiable appetite humans have for fish. This growing consumer demand now threatens the very existence of entire fish populations. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reports that the global fishing fleet is 2 to 3 times larger than what the oceans can sustainably support. The industry is taking far more fish out of the oceans than can be replaced by those remaining. If this continues, stocks of all species currently fished for food are predicted to collapse by 2048.


With no oxygen to breath, and with no chance to reproduce, in about 30 years there might not be any living aquatic creatures anyway, only the cute, animated characters appearing on the silver screen.

By then, the BWN Convention will be redundant.





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