by Lina Vergara Huilcamán

For us at Sea Shepherd it is very important to start from communication and education, because in order to stop the destruction of biodiversity, to prevent the sea from dying and us with it, people need to know, and the people of the future, our future, are children and young people. For this reason, we have a special program for schools of all levels, starting from kindergartens, where we carry out information activities about the damages caused by plastic and about what every single one of us, children included, can do starting from our daily habits – for example using water bottles and boycotting disposable plastic – but also explaining that the safeguard of the sea starts from our home and from what we decide to eat.
The choice of eating fish, of not eating it, or of which fish to eat, can have a big impact on nature. We need to be aware of what we eat and know legal and illegal fishing methods. For example: what impact can the choice of eating shark fin soup in a nation like China have? One hundred million sharks killed every year! The choice of eating a simple soup can cause the disappearance of sharks from our future, a future which won’t belong to us, but to our children.
In Italy, too, there are species that need to be protected or whose fishing is prohibited. Whitebaits, whose fishing is absolutely forbidden, are the embryos of sardines which, after being captured with very fine nets, will never grow nor breed. One hundred grams of whitebaits could have become hundreds of kilograms of adult sardines, which would have provided a lot of food to other predatory fish, such as swordfish or tuna, as well as humans. Fishing and/or eating whitebaits means contributing to the destruction of the food chain. Fishing before breeding is called overfishing, namely fishing more individuals than those who breed in the wild, and leads to the extinction of the species.
This happens to eels too, incredible animals who travel to the Sargasso Sea, between the Antilles and the Azores, to breed, and then go back to the Mediterranean, arrive in Italy where they go up the rivers with their newborn babies, that are called elvers, or glass eels. Eels are a protected species because they are close to extinction, but it is precisely because of their rarity that they have a high market value that attracts criminals. To cook twenty plates of spaghetti, three thousand elvers are killed, future eels that could have continued to live and breed.
If you look at planet Earth from the space, you see that it is planet Sea, because seven tenths of its surface are blue. Most of our planet is covered by the waters of the oceans, and if we stopped to analyse life on our planet and understand how it functions, we would soon understand that it is thanks to the other species that we can live. Plants, animals and microorganisms together are fundamental to our survival.
In schools we tell children about the importance of whales and their poop, the importance of worms, bees… and they have no difficulty in understanding their interdependence. We depend on the other living beings, but the other living beings do not need us in order to survive. If we do not understand immediately, and from an early age, that it is really important to preserve the sea and other plant and animal species, and that biodiversity is essential, we will soon be extinct too.

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