“Everywhere? No way!” Her eyes big, mouth open in astonishment, while she stared at her grandfather.
“It’s true. Cross my heart.” Grandfather leaned back a little and directed a loving smile at his young granddaughter.
“You’re making fun again, aren’t you! I don’t believe you!” She punched his arm like she would always do when she had the feeling, he was making things up. But there was no hint of that usual glint in his eyes. The smile on his face held no pleasure. He just gazed over the water. And she felt herself falling silent.
He picked up a small pebble, weighed it in his hand briefly and then, with a swing of his arm and a flick of his hand, threw it towards the ocean. It landed with an audible plop into the water, as if to accentuate the emptiness of it all.
“I don’t know how to describe it to you.” He waited, gathering his thoughts. “It was just so incredibly beautiful. So unbelievably beautiful”. He pointed towards a spot in the surf. “There is where we used to walk into the water. You know, with the diving gear on. We did it every day. Sometimes twice.” He pointed his arm a little more out. “If you’d walk out a dozen meters or so, that’s where the coral started. When it was still alive of course. Now it’s dead. But back then, man, you’d see all these colors. Red and blue and yellow and green… it was just so alive.” His eyes glazed even more as he drifted into memory. “And around it there were fish. Tons of fish. Whole schools of fish as they used to call it. Schools...” His eyes widened. “And there were thousands. Tens of thousands. Just in that little part over there alone.”
He clasped his hands together, rocked back and forth a little, now so far away with his thoughts he was forgetting the girl sitting next to him.
She felt it. She was still looking at him as she grabbed his hand. He reacted, lifted his eyebrows and his gaze came back to earth. His eyes filled with moist as he looked at her. “But now they’re all gone.” He stared down. The guilt starting to overwhelm him. They fell silent.
“It’s not your fault grandpa.” She said, trying to comfort him.
“That’s just it.” he mumbled, still staring down. “I’m just as guilty as everyone else. We all did it. We used to catch those fish. Scrape them. Bomb them on the ocean floor. And then eat them. And it would’ve been okay if there had been enough of them left you know. If we hadn’t fished them all. If we had listened. It would’ve been okay…”
Now her eyes grew moist in return, quickly starting to leak, just before the flood would come, she knew. She had rarely seen her grandfather this sad, this broken. And she hadn’t developed the skill yet, to keep from crying.
He stared up again. “God, I wish you could’ve seen them. I would give anything for you to see them. Just once. Just once more.”
She laid her head on his shoulder, sniffles coming at regular intervals now. And they sat there, silent, for a very, very long time, staring out over an ocean that used to be alive.
Saltwater fishing will end in 2048, simply because there will be no more fish left in our oceans. This isn’t a prediction, but a fact that is happening right here and now. Over fishing has to stop. Be the change.