can’t see the forest

Major Study Finds Marine Biodiversity in Catastrophic Decline

Posted in Ecosystems, Environment, Fishing, Lifestyle, Marine biology, News, Science, wildlife by Curtis on 11/2/06

In the journal Science, an international team of researchers has published its carefully studied findings that sea fish in general may be around for as little as another half-century. (BBC report on the study [here]—this issue of global importance not involving warfare actually made the front page today, miraculously.)
The rapid decline in stable species of marine wildlife is associated with environmental problems from global warming to pollution to overexploitation of stocks by human beings, problems which have disturbed and continue to interrupt the food chain in many habitats throughout the world’s oceans. This study focuses on the latter issue, namely over-fishing and destructive harvest methods such as bottom-trawling.

“What we’re highlighting is there is a finite number of stocks; we have gone through one-third, and we are going to get through the rest,” said Boris Worm of Dalhousie University, Canada.

The situation is not totally hopeless; these rather austere predictions are made assuming that past and current environmental and industrial trends continue with respect to overexploitation of marine life. Of course, these assumptions largely hold because the rate of abuse is steadily increasing. Combating the threat will require coordinated, not merely nominal efforts from multiple nations and international organizations. Enlargement of protected marine areas and an intensification of efforts to utilize them could help to safeguard many of the endangered sea species. A concerted global reduction in human consumption of seafood would also help to curb the disastrous trend, although such measures would also entail unpleasant circumstances and dire challenges for those whose livelihoods depend on the seafood industry.

Steve Palumbi, a Stanford researcher, said: “Unless we fundamentally change the way we manage all the ocean species together, as working ecosystems, then this century is the last of wild seafood.”

Did you catch the ‘working ecosystems’ part? As in: mankind, in all of his munificent Kiplingian capitalist mastery, is not allowed to simply rob his planet blind without enduring harsh and permanent consequences, without forcing many less intelligent (and less harmful) species to endure even more tragic consequences? We are not detached from the ecology of this planet. We are a part of it, and we have already become an illness.

Go ahead, go ahead—those who will, please tell me how Mother Nature or Jesus or both of them together will persevere. I’d love to hear it; I’m trying to sleep.

Anyhoo. Not to get all fiesty on you…sorry. Here’s more from the article. The emphases are mine:

What the study does not do is attribute damage to individual activities such as over-fishing, pollution or habitat loss; instead it paints a picture of the cumulative harm done across the board.

Even so, a key implication of the research is that more of the oceans should be protected.

Nets on tuna boat. Image: Wolcott Henry 2005/Marine Photobank

Modern fishing methods such as purse seine nets are very efficient

But the extent of protection is not the only issue, according to Carl Gustaf Lundin, head of the global marine programme at IUCN, the World Conservation Union.

“The benefits of marine-protected areas are quite clear in a few cases; there’s no doubt that protecting areas leads to a lot more fish and larger fish, and less vulnerability,” he said.

“But you also have to have good management of marine parks and good management of fisheries. Clearly, fishing should not wreck the ecosystem, bottom trawling being a good example of something which does wreck the ecosystem.

But, he said, the concept of protecting fish stocks by protecting biodiversity does make sense.

“This is a good compelling case; we should protect biodiversity, and it does pay off even in simple monetary terms through fisheries yield.”

Protecting stocks demands the political will to act on scientific advice – something which Boris Worm finds lacking in Europe, where politicians have ignored recommendations to halt the iconic North Sea cod fishery year after year.

Without a ban, scientists fear the North Sea stocks could follow the Grand Banks cod of eastern Canada into apparently terminal decline.

“I’m just amazed, it’s very irrational,” he said.

“You have scientific consensus and nothing moves. It’s a sad example; and what happened in Canada should be such a warning, because now it’s collapsed it’s not coming back.

I used to be an optimist. That was before I began equating optimism with escapism, at least as far as the environment is concerned; but then there is a distinct difference between constructive optimism and escapist optimism. The problem is that as rational beings there is no limit to our capability to willfully confuse the two, particularly when we congregate into large groups under colorful banners.


3 Responses

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  1. kiwi said, on 12/18/06 at 4:31 pm

    i am very happy at least SOMEONE is on my side

  2. kiwi said, on 12/18/06 at 4:33 pm

    i am touched

  3. Kiwi said, on 12/18/06 at 4:34 pm

    thank you

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