“Today, fishery managers are continuing to ignore the law and allow unsustainable fishing for too many of our economically and ecologically important fish. It’s time to listen to the science and put long-term sustainability ahead of short-term profits.” ~Mark Powell
I recently wrote a blog about how McKinsey&Co, the super-high-priced management consulting firm, have done a “study” in conjunction with the University of California to develop computer models for sustainability of commercial fishing. Great, more studies and computer models. It’s too late for more studies and computer models, we need drastic action now.
I am reprinting an article here from the June 2011 edition of The Guardian newspaper that dramatically shows the extent of overfishing. The visual graphics are disturbing. I hope it spurs more people into action to save our ocean life.
It’s hard to imagine the damage over-fishing is wrecking on the oceans. The effects are literally invisible, hidden deep in the ocean. But there is data out there. And when you visualise it, the results are shocking.
This image shows the biomass of popularly-eaten fish in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1900 and in 2000. Popularly eaten fish include: bluefin tuna, cod, haddock, hake, halibut, herring, mackerel, pollock, salmon, sea-trout, striped bass, sturgeon, turbot. Many of which are now vulnerable or endangered.
Dr Villy Christensen and his colleagues at the University Of British Columbia used ecosystem models, underwater terrain maps, fish catch records and statistical analysis to render the biomass of Atlantic fish at various points this century (see the study)
Researching this image, I read Professor Callum Roberts’ harrowing book, The Unnatural History Of The Sea (Amazon US | UK). He uses historical accounts of the ocean to depict the sheer fecundity of the sea in the times before industrialised fishing.
These early accounts and data on the past abundance of fish help reveal the magnitude of today’s fish stock declines which are otherwise abstract or invisible.
They also help counter the phenomenon of “shifting environment baselines”. This is when each generation views the environment they remember from their youth as “natural” and normal. Today that means our fishing policies and environmental activism is geared to restoring the oceans to the state we remember they were. That’s considered the environmental baseline.
The problem is, the sea was already heavily exploited when we were young.
So this is a kind of collective social amnesia that allows over-exploitation to creep up and increase decade-by-decade without anyone truly questioning it. Today’s fishing quotas and policies for example are attempting to reset fish stocks to the levels of ten or twenty years ago. But as you can see from the visualization, we were already plenty screwed back then.
As Prof Roberts writes: “The greater part of the decline of many exploited populations happened before the birth of anyone living today.”
Tight Lines . . .
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