The oceans of the world are regularly depicted as under threat from human exploitation with the problem portrayed as being of 'global' concern. In a world market characterised by the division of labour, many of those who eat fish do so without directly experiencing the ocean as a domain of productive utility. Rather, their encounters are with representations that depict the 'natural' world as an aesthetic object of contemplation, and environmentalist discourses that identify human activities as' threatening marine ecosystems. So prevalent is this experience that tangible institutions, such as state fisheries management bodies, have emerged, acting to reinforce the ontology of this 'contemplated' ocean, giving weight to the illusion that humans can, and should, appreciate it only from afar. In this representation, commercial fishers are regularly depicted as transgressing a 'natural' boundary between humans and the environment. It is when the world is simultaneously encountered as an object of consumptive utility and aesthetic utility that the human role in the environment becomes ambiguous and a sense of crisis arises. This paper investigates disjunctions in experiences and understandings that contribute to environmental anxiety, and debates over the appropriate use of the ocean.