Society’s understanding of environmental issues has a significant impact on the public’s level or concern and action towards these issues. Without awareness, changes will not be made and therefore the media plays a large role in communicating and building a societal understanding for environmental problems and solutions. Although far reaching, media sources are not always sharing factual scientific information with the public. Alex and Tyler are The Water Brothers, an eco-adventure television show that is dedicated to showcasing the problems and solutions facing the world’s water supplies.
This program aims to educate viewers and provide factual information regarding the world’s water ecosystems. In The Water Brothers episode “The Least Deadliest Catch”, the brothers explores the problems associated with overfishing and the damages caused to the ocean’s ecosystems as a result. This episode also looks into sustainable fishing methods and introduces 3D marine farming. In this episode, the brothers introduce problems associated with overfishing and bottom trawling, saying 85% of global fish stocks are now overfished or fully depleted. Miffin, 2015) In a document published by the United Nations, it states that “80 per cent of the world’s fish stocks for which assessment information is available are reported as fully exploited or overexploited and, thus, requiring effective and precautionary management. ” (Overview – Convention & Related Agreements, 2010) Although varying slightly, this research is conclusive with that of The Water Brothers and supports their findings that such a large number of global fish stocks are depleted.
Overfishing, when fish are caught faster than they can reproduce (Lee & Safina n. d. ) has decimated marine ecosystems around the world. One of the leading contributors to overfishing is bottom trawling. This fishing technique uses weighted nets, which drag across the ocean floor, catching anything in its path. This is the most destructive method of fishing and is described by The Water Brothers, saying, “bottom trawling kills indiscriminately, ruining the bottom habitat and catching a high number of species unintentionally, known as bycatch. Trawl fisheries for shrimp and demersal finfish account for over 50 percent of total estimated discards. (Kelleher, 2015) In addition to the bycatch from trawling, the weighted nets that drag across the sea floor destroy corals, sponges, seagrasses, and rock garden habitats. (Morgan & Chuenpagdee, 2003) By removing habitat-building organisms (source nature. com) and senselessly killing so many aquatic animals, this method of fishing has a domino affect on other species and environments.
The brothers note that in addition to catching too many fish, “it also damages the entire seafloor ecosystem. ” (Miffin, 2015) Like the show states, fishing reduces the abundance of target and nontarget fish populations. Other non-target species can be injured or killed as bycatch. The physical impact of fishing gear on the seafloor harms habitats for important commercial species and other marine life. Together these impacts can lead to habitat damage, reduced biodiversity, changes in food webs, and reduced ecosystem function. Morgan & Chuenpagdee, 2003) In this episode, the brothers visit an ocean ecosystem in Nova Scotia, which has been directly affected by overfishing, and see first hand the changes it has made to the marine environment. With so much collateral damage, bottom trawling is exhausting our fish stocks through overfishing and destruction and is an unsustainable method of fishing. The Water Brothers successfully educate their viewers about overfishing and bottom trawling using scientifically supported facts as well as real world examples including the marine ecosystems in Nova Scotia.
Bottom Trawl fishing is a threat to the ocean’s ecosystems and therefore alternative fishing practices must be put in place to maintain the integrity of the marine environments. Bottom long line fishing is a commercial fishing technique described by the brothers as “a series of weighted lines are lowered to the seafloor with hundreds of baited hooks attached to catch fish like haddock, hake, halibut and cod. In this episode, they explain that “bottom long-lining is considered by scientists to be a much more sustainable harvesting method. This method of fishing is much more sustainable than bottom trawling because, handline, jig, trap and pot fisheries have low discard rates. (Kelleher, 2015) Although long-line fishing is less efficient than trawl fishing, this method is able to catch targeted species.
Long-lining has been recorded as 20 times more effective for catching catfish over trawling (Grekov & Pavlenko, 2011) In this episode, the brothers visit a long-line fisherman and explain that his “fish are not bruised and crushed in nets, so he’s able to command a higher price for his fish. This difference in quality as a result of the fishing method is proven in a quality assessment study of Atlantic cod caught by trawlers and long-liners. This study shows that the fish caught with lines have a better color and texture, whereas the trawled fish had more catch related damages and protein denaturation when stored. (Rotabakk, Skipnes, Akse, & Birkeland, 2011) In addition to longlining, The Water Brothe another sustainable method of harvesting; the brothers visit fishermen who use modified lobster traps to catch shrimp in Nova Scotia.
They explain that the traps are baited with leftover herring scraps and placed on the bottom of the ocean and picked up once a day throughout the winter when shrimp come closer to shore. (Miffin, 2015) This method of shrimping produces little to no bycatch and is therefore a very sustainable method of harvesting. The brothers state that this method doesn’t catch as much shrimp as trawling but has a smaller impact on the marine environment, juxtaposing the negative impacts from shrimp farms and trawl fisheries.
The facts presented in this episode of The Water Brothers are supported by scientific research and therefore this episode is an accurate representation of environmental issues in the media. In addition to exploring the problems and solutions associated with commercial fishing, in this episode, Alex and Tyler also visit a fisherman, Bren Smith, who has developed an innovative way to harvest food from the ocean while reducing environmental strain on the marine ecosystems.
This method, which Smith calls 3D farming, is unlike traditional aquatic farming whereby he grows several different species, each growing and eating different nutrients found naturally in the water. This method of farming produces no waste aOnd every column is used to produce restorative species such as mussels, scallops, oysters, clams and seaweeds. He goes on to say that oysters “filter up to fifty gallons of water a day, pulling nitrogen out of the water. ” (Miffin, 2015) Oysters have been proven to filter water and remove nitrogen. Bacher, Bioteau, & Chapelle, 1995)
This filtration stabilizes the ecosystem; if there is too much nitrogen in a body of water dead zones are formed. Smith also explains that kelp is the second fastest growing plant in the world and is filled with healthy micronutrients; some having more protein than red meat, more vitamin C than citrus fruits and more vitamin D than milk. High vitamin, mineral and protein contents in seaweeds has been proven, as evidenced by a report published by the Electronic Journal of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Chemistry, corroborating the brother’s findings. Burtin, 2003)
In addition to a nutrient rich food source, Smith explains that seaweed can be used for more than food; he partnered with the Yale sustainable food project, which uses seaweed to produce biofuel. Seaweeds are “an abundant and carbon neutral renewable resource with potential to reduce green house gas emissions and the man-made impact on climate change” when used as biofuel. (Kraan, 2010) The facts presented in this episode regarding 3D farming are all supported by scientific research, making The Water Brothers a reliable media source of environmental information.
Throughout this episode, “The Least Deadliest Catch”, Alex and Tyler, The Water Brothers, explore the problems associated with fishing, farming and consuming seafood. They visit Nova Scotia, seeing the first hand affect trawling and overfishing has had on a local marine ecosystem. They also join two different fishermen who use sustainable fishing practices including longlining and modified shrimp catching. In addition to these fishing practices, this episode explores 3D farming and the sustainable food sources used such as oysters and kelp to produce a ecologically sound farm that benefits the ocean rather than deplete it.
The brothers provide valuable education regarding environmental issues relating to commercial fishing and ocean ecosystems. Aiming to entertain and educate people through their TV show, this episode of Alex and Tyler’s series presents factual information supported by scientific research. By providing supported facts, this show helps inform the public through a mass media platform about environmental concerns and how small changes can positively impact the environment.