When I was growing up in Australia, we caught our own bait for fishing.
Pippi-shells wiggled out of the beach, worms dug up from the mud, prawns drifting down the channel on the night tide. Dad used to shine a torch on the water and I would scoop them into a net. There used to be quite a few when I was eight. Less when I was twelve. And by the time I was a teenager, there were none at all.
This was our small contribution to the decimation of local sea-life. We didn’t know the prawns were drifting in to breed on the sand banks of Lake Macquarie where we lived, 90 miles north of Sydney.
Older and now well travelled, I’ve seen humans catching marine life-be it prawns, squid, sharks or tuna - all over the world. But what about the shells. Oh the shells!
Lined up on waterfront stalls -----helmet shells in Zanzibar, trochus shells in Tahiti, nautilus in Indonesia, turtle-shell jewellery in Sri Lanka, puffer-fish lamps in New Caledonia, corals in Sinai, cowries in Fiji, dried sea-horses in the Philippines.
The rape of the ocean’s marine life is out of control. The oil-leak in the Gulf of Mexico may kill a few hundred turtles, but it is nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to the numbers of creatures being harvested in developing countries to satisfy Asian peccadilloes and tourist greed.
Tourist buying a shell from beach boys on Bali.
Woman tries on a turtle-shell bracelet in Seychelles.
Shells on a waterfront stall in Zanzibar