Friday, February 27, 2009

Cherish those fish sticks

Back in the 80's I caught an interview Larry King had with Ted Danson, who despite his best intentions hurt the environmental movement by declaring with a near fanatical look that the oceans would be dead in ten years. Danson brought up the killing of sharks, pollution, mega-sized factory ships overfishing, and other very real issues. I can't tell you how many times I have heard some conservative nut bring up that interview saying that its been way over ten years and the oceans are still there. Never the less. despite the snickers and the good old boys and girls slapping each other on the back reassuring each other all this is crazy liberal crap a very real problem does exist:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Barack Obama could protect ocean wildlife and save jobs in commercial fisheries by ending widespread overfishing, environmental and economic leaders and scientists reported on Thursday.

About 70 percent of the world's fisheries are over-exploited or have already crashed, the report said. If this long-term trend continues, scientists have predicted that all current salt-water fish and seafood species will collapse by 2048.

Trying to explain some of this stuff to someone whose greatest literary possessions are the complete "Left Behind" series or the collected works of Bill O'Reilly or Ann Coulter is simply hopeless. Hell, they see grocery store freezers stocked full of processed fish sticks and figure this is another example of liberal Chicken Littles wanting to tax something new. But as the befuddled conservative masses contemplate the unfairness of having to deal with the new president who can walk and chew gum at the same time the entire world edges ever closer to the abyss Ted Danson talked about. Cheer's Y'all.

Why is overfishing a problem
In the first chapter we discussed already that globally fishing fleets are at least two to three times as large as needed to take present day catches of fish and other marine species. To explain why overfishing is a problem we first have to get an idea on the scale of the problem. This is best done by looking at some figures published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. 1 The FAO scientists publish a two yearly report (SOFIA) on the state of the world's fisheries and aquaculture. 2 The report is generally rather conservative regarding the acknowledging of problems but does show the main issues. In general it can be stated that the SOFIA report is a number of years behind time of the real situation.
The above shows that over 25% of all the world's fish stocks are either overexploited or depleted. Another 52% is fully exploited, these are in imminent danger of overexploitation (maximum sustainable production level) and collapse. Thus a total of almost 80% of the world's fisheries are fully- to over-exploited, depleted, or in a state of collapse. Worldwide about 90% of the stocks of large predatory fish stocks are already gone. In the real world all this comes down to two serious problems.
The single best example of the ecological and economical dangers of overfishing is found in Newfoundland, Canada. In 1992 the once thriving cod fishing industry came to a sudden and full stop when at the start of the fishing season no cod appeared. Overfishing allowed by decades of fisheries mismanagement was the main cause for this disaster that resulted in almost 40.000 people losing their livelihood and an ecosystem in complete state of decay. Now, fifteen years after the collapse, many fishermen are still waiting for the cod to return and communities still haven't recovered from the sudden removal of the regions single most important economical driver. The only people thriving in this region are the ones fishing for crab, a species once considered a nuisance by the Newfoundland fishermen.

My biggest fear is that we humans will continue this game of just increasing our efforts to make up for a ever declining global catch until at some point we go over a cliff Danson talked about and WE crash.

In the long run I'm not worried about the oceans because they will recover. It may take many many years but the biosphere will evolve and endure, its just we won't be here.

But I expect Mother Earth will cull another way us long before that happens.


Randal Graves said...

See, the conservatives are right! You just admitted that the oceans will recover! Fish ahoy, mateys!

If I was Mother Earth, I probably would have earthquaked us into oblivion a long time ago.

Anonymous said...

so much for being stewards of the earth, we can't even handle our own selves. well, good luck to us all!

Jessica said...

This was good (of course). Very informative even if it would still be incomprehensible to some of my conservative friends. I hope this is the beginning of several years of progress on these issues from the Obama administration, the American people, and the people of the world.

Mike said...

Hopefully we are finally off in the right direction. I worry that the economy my force the environment onto the back burner, but I sure hope not.

Beach Bum said...

Randal: I figure the bird flu will hit, then an asteroid, then rush Limbaugh's head will explode and poison all the water in world letting the human race walk like a dinosaur into extinction.

Sassy: Yeah, I often have the idea that humans are not an intelligent species. Even rats take better care of the places they live.

Jessica: I hope so as well. There is so much to be done all Obama can do is lead by example, the rest will be up to us.

Mike: Amen, especially with the financial types about to bust a gut having to pony up some money to help society at large.

Connecticut Man1 said...

I am watching a relatively short but informative story from Natiuonal Geographic and can't help but think that you used to see really important stories like this covered on the local and national news. Not anymore. They can't even report factually on the junk they choose to cover.

MadMike said...

Obama gave a very encouraging speech to the Interior Department today. I think he is going to be as good for the environment as Bush was bad for the environment. As a result there will be drastic improvements to the good.

Beach Bum said...

CM1: I feel the same way, if I hear one more story about the woman that just had the eight babies and now sporting a total of fourteen kids I'll puke.

MadMike: I really hope so, more importantly I'd like to see an up swell in grassroots concern leading to more responsible behavior. Of course I still believe in Santa as well.

Distributorcap said...

stories like this never make the news -=- unless britney is caught eating a fish head

we will surely destroy this planet long before it plays itself out

in fact we arent that far away

Vigilante said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vigilante said...

What gets me about blue water fishing is the technology. Radar, sonar and other computerized "fish finders". Surely this has gone far beyond what used to be a sporting challenge. This is nothing but a nerdy technological methodology. This is the maritime equivalent of Cheney shooting birds on a private duck farm and calling it hunting!

I'll stop here before I extend this riff and say something that will offend Beach's readers, some of whom are probably serious fishermen or fisherwomen. But there is one more thing I have left unsaid on this subject.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully we are finally off in the right direction....
Great post...
Thanks for sharing......

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