December 20, 2013
If we are serious about protecting the ocean, we must bravely address inequities and injustices in the system. And I hope you’ll stand with us as we do.
Last week at the conclusion of a Food Solutions New England meeting we were asked: how we will address issues of racial inequity and food injustice in our work? FSNE is a network of organizations, including NAMA, focused on figuring out how as New Englanders can we feed ourselves mostly locally caught, raised and grown food in a few decades while dismantling racial inequity and food injustice in our food system. A brave undertaking.
My only thought at the end of the meeting was we must be brave. On the drive home I realized I was telling myself to be brave more than I was telling my colleagues in the room. Must admit I am nervous about how this commitment will further transform our work and approach. The language of today’s marine conservation movement is not written with racial equity and food justice in mind. And fisheries policies are from just and equitable. So I anticipate resistance to our work. Until recently, the two worlds of food justice advocacy and ocean advocacy didn’t even intersect. This is a shame since our excuse for killing marine animals is to feed ourselves.
We already took the brave step to focus our work on linking these two worlds, and what has emerged has been inspiring and empowering. We appreciate your support getting us this far. But we need to do more – and we need you to be there as we do. Because the more we learned, the more we saw the marginalization of the communities all throughout our food system including fishing communities, often driven by race and income.
Why do race and equity matter to marine conservation? Because race continues to be the major factor for how entire communities are treated, impacting access to resources and the cost of basic needs in communities of color. Race and equity are the reasons why many communities are treated unjustly or taken for granted, and often left with limited or non-existent choices when it comes to securing healthy, clean, fair food along the entire food chain. You can get a glimpse into the data around racial inequity and food injustice by visiting this link.
When it comes to fishing, we see race and equity play a major role. Indonesian fishermen being held in slavery conditions off New Zealand; child labor used to grow the shrimp for Walmart; here in the US communities of color see access to seafood being limited to highly processed, boxed, and overpriced “seafood products” at the corner bodegas… all the while fishermen around the globe continue to fish under unjust price controls, fighting against corporate takeover and privatization strategies, and often ending up fishing in the red. These issues have a direct relationship with how we treat the ocean, yet they are silo-ed as human rights issues or economic justice issues. They are marine conservation issues and it’s time we addressed them in that context. But we must be brave to do this work justice.
Frankly, the marine conservation movement needs to change if issues of racial equality and food justice are to be addressed. Today, this movement is pretty homogenous and does not address the issues of race, equity and access. These issues are considered peripheral to saving the fish, when in fact inequity and injustice play a major role in fisheries policies and seafood value chain.
It’s time to change the face of the marine conservation movement, and we need your help to do that.
Most of the marine conservation campaigns and messages target upper middle class and white populations. Our work is a whole new way of looking at and talking about what it takes to protect the ocean and, like any new way of approaching social and environmental change, is not always welcomed or understood. As Gandhi said “be the change you want to see in the world.” Knowing what we know, it’s our responsibility to create the changes necessary to ensure just and equitable fisheries and food systems.
Please join us in this bold and brave approach, and stand up without fear to those who have been controlling the fishing and agriculture worlds, often at the cost to the animals, the land, the ocean and those who are working on land and sea.
Without dealing with racial inequity and food injustice we will not succeed at our ultimate goal of marine conservation and will go on compromising the accessibility, viability and sustainability of the marine environment and our entire food system.
Thank you for helping us be brave.
Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance