Friday, December 05, 2008

There goes tuna

There was new evidence early this week that the world has not yet absorbed just how deeply humans have depleted our “exhausted oceans.” At the latest meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, created under a treaty 42 years ago to manage shared fisheries in that ocean, European governments ignored a strong recommendation from the group’s own scientific advisers for deep cuts in some harvests of the Atlantic bluefin tuna. On its face, that would seem to be a strange development considering that the organization’s Web site says flatly: “Science underpins the management decisions made by I.C.C.A.T.

But such moves seem unremarkable, for now, in a world seeking to manage limited, shared natural resources while also spurring economic growth — whether the resource is the global atmosphere or an extraordinary half-ton, ocean-roaming predator. The European stance — insisting on a harvest in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean 50 percent above the limit recommended by scientists — was sharply criticized by environmental campaigners, marine biologists and United States fisheries officials. Some biologists criticized the United States, as well, for playing down the role of American fishers, both recreational and commercial, in destroying the once-bountiful fishery.
The article then quotes Carl Safina:
The fact is that for years the quota in the West has also been much too high, due to commercial and recreational fishing industry lobbying. And we continue fishing in the spawning area. (Earlier this month I lost a long-running lawsuit against N.O.A.A. to close the Gulf to gear capable of catching bluefins during the spawning season.) It’s all subject to limits but the limits are too high. If they weren’t too high, we would not have the problems. So we have a collapsed western stock and a rapidly declining eastern stock because of greed all around.

U.S. boats have been catching a small fraction of their quota (about 10 to 15 percent of what they’re allowed) in recent years. That percent of the quota will increase as the quota comes down, making things look better. But the quota remains higher than the catch, so the quota is not a limit. It’s like limiting your pasta intake by reducing your limit from 10 pounds of spaghetti per meal to five pounds per meal. Nobody is eating five pounds, so it’s not a limit.

I.C.C.A.T. has always been broken, and the tradition of ignoring the science and insisting on higher quotas was set 25 years ago by Western fishing interests. That tradition remains alive on BOTH sides of the ocean, and the indignant rhetoric by the Western fishing interests masks their own hypocrisy. No country has ever done the right thing toward maintaining these fish, though the U.S. comes closer. But still, the quota will be reduced to a level higher than the catch, so it’s all still meaningless….

The fishing on this side of the ocean is in tatters. The big runs of autumn, the “tuna fever,” the great herds of fish thundering across the blue prairies as they rounded Montauk, that’s all gone. This was by far the worst year ever. But then, that’s true every year. What was different this year was that in addition to bluefin, yellowfins and albacore were nearly absent, too.

What’s really needed is a moratorium for bluefin, and I first said that in 1991. That’s the bluefin situation. I must say that based on their whole history I would have been astounded if I.C.C.A.T. had set an eastern quota that complied with the science. I’m ashamed of what they do, but no longer surprised.
Do we literally have to eat up a entire species before we realize what we are doing? Fishermen can see what is happening just by the lack of fish they pull up from the ocean. Are we able to control all countries so no one feels the others are getting away with overfishing while we lose out? How can we stop this?

I haven't bought a can of tuna in a long while but clearly world wide consumer demand will continue. What will it take?

Update: Hard to stop fishing when you are poor:

Madagascar has a long way to go in protecting its marine resources. "It is very difficult to stop fishermen from catching shark and collecting sea cucumbers," said Rabenevanana. "These fishermen are poor and the attraction of fishing for sharks and sea cucumbers is huge. If we truly want to protect our resources we must address the market. We must do more to discourage the Chinese from eating shark fin soup; perhaps we can even find an alternative."

There are no conservation programmes in place to protect sharks. "It is not a sustainable fishery because it is not properly regulated," Volanirina Ramahery, of the World Wide Fund for Nature, an environmental NGO, told IRIN.

The decline of the primary predator could unbalance the entire marine food chain. Studies in the Caribbean have shown that too few sharks mean other carnivorous species increase and eat too many other useful fish, such as those keeping algae on the coral in check, which can eventually endanger the entire reef ecosystem.

"The disappearance of sharks would have devastating impacts on marine habitats and the local communities that depend on these," Frances Humber, a marine biologist studying shark populations in southern and western Madagascar with the British conservation organisation, Blue Ventures, told IRIN.

"A collapse in the shark fishing industry could threaten the economic stability of the region, and would mean the loss of livelihoods for thousands of fisherman."


Sorghum Crow said...

Sorry. Charlie.

A few years ago we were all worried about dolphin-safe tuna. Now tuna-safe tuna (no tuna) needs to be on the menu. I had my beans and rice last night for dinner.

ellroon said...

Dirt and leaves salad with a crumble of dried worms might be next. Compare this to those who demand women not have access to birth control and should have as many babies as possible and realize the world has gone nuts....