Thursday, July 31, 2008

253. On Fishing ...

I've been reading more and more to educate myself about our oceans. I favor conservation, and I'm now more convinced than ever that the responsible thing to do, for conservation, for moral reasons, and as citizens of the world, is to establish a national marine monument around the three northern islands of the CNMI.

There is a very good article in the April 2007 National Geographic. It covers some of the same ground as in the thoroughly researched book, THE UNNATURAL HISTORY OF THE SEA by Callum Roberts. Both point to several important aspects of the discussion about our oceans and the marine life there.

* Fishing, as practiced now, causes terrible damage to our marine environments and is exterminating species of ocean life at an alarming rate.

* The degradation of our marine habitats causes a phenomenon of "shifting baselines" where we come to accept as normal what we have/see, and forget about the past, what really was normal and existed. We tend to think those stories told by older generations of "the big one" caught or that got away are exaggerations, but the scientific evidence shows that predator species were bigger in the past, and there were more of them.

* Current strategies for "sustainable fisheries" aren't working. If we don't do something now, drastically, we will lose about 90% of our marine life by 2050. And the effect of degradation of our coral reefs and other marine habitats has on climate change, global warming, and our very existence, will be harsh.

* There are seven steps we (as governments, as policy-makers, as enforcers) could take that would save our oceans.
1. Reduce the amount of fishing.
2. Eliminate politicians from much of the fishery management decision-making.
3. Eliminate catch quotas.
4. Require fishers to keep what they catch (no more throwing over the "by-catch"-returning dead sea creatures that aren't what you wanted)
5. Use the best available fishing technology to reduce bycatch.
6. Ban or restrict the most damaging fishing gear (bottom trawls, in particular).
7. Create marine sanctuaries that put 20% to 40% of the ocean beyond harm-no take zones.

* And as individuals, there are a few things we can do. Namely choose seafoods caught using sustainable methods. There are sustainable fisheries, with their catch labeled by the Marine Stewardship Council. The labels look like this:

Or check out what are good choices here or here.


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