Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

Networking For A Better Future - News and perspectives you may not find in the media

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June 10, 2003

Ocean's Bounty is Gone

As humans we have a duty to ourselves and to future generations to preserve this planet as a sustainable habitat for the human, and by logical extension, for all other species living here. Clearly we are not doing so.

As Bill McKibben reports in the Miami Herald, according to a study published in Nature this spring, "the populations of every single species of large wild fish have fallen by 90 percent or more. The sharks, tuna, marlins, swordfish, halibut and grouper that have managed to survive are, on average, one-fifth to one-half the size they were 50 years ago. In the deep oceans, where Japanese fleets use fishing lines many kilometers long, they used to catch 10 fish per 100 hooks; now they are lucky to catch one."

From: OBRL-News Bulletin

Subject:- Ocean's Bounty is Gone

Published on Thursday, June 5, 2003 by the Miami Herald

Ocean's Bounty is Gone

by Bill McKibben

When people accuse environmentalists of exaggerating the damage that humans have done to the planet, sometimes its because they simply can't remember what the world once was like. None of us really can; Human memories are short.

But every once in a while some piece of news brings back that former world. The journal Nature this spring published the most comprehensive study ever conducted of the worlds fisheries. Simply put, it concluded that the worlds oceans are wrecked.

In the past 50 years, the populations of every single species of large wild fish have fallen by 90 percent or more. The sharks, tuna, marlins, swordfish, halibut and grouper that have managed to survive are, on average, one-fifth to one-half the size they were 50 years ago. In the deep oceans, where Japanese fleets use fishing lines many kilometers long, they used to catch 10 fish per 100 hooks; now they are lucky to catch one. Fifty years is not very long. Eisenhower was president; we had television; rocknroll was young; people who have not yet started to consider themselves middle-aged were being born.


Even then the oceans were somewhat impoverished. The schools of cod that had greeted the first Europeans in the New World -- cod 5 and 6 feet long that you could catch by dipping a basket in the sea -- were already reduced. But the damage had barely begun.

Pretty soon new technology was at work: fish-finding sonar, big factory ships that could wait offshore for months, helicopters for chasing tuna. The equipment was so good that fishermen could keep bringing in sizable catches right until the moment that the populations crashed for good. Once Canadian cod fishermen were able to efficiently locate the nurseries where the fish spawned, for instance, they were able to drag their trawls right through them. On paper everything seemed fine until 1992 when, finally, the nets came up empty.

The Canadian government imposed a moratorium on cod fishing that year, a ban thats still mostly in effect. Hundreds of communities were wiped out.

''Ten years ago we had 118 guys in our bar baseball league,'' one Canadian fishermen told me a few years ago. "Forty-eight of them don't play anymore. They've moved away.''

But it was a case of bolting the dock door after the fish had fled. Cod populations have been cut by 99 percent, and the ecology of the ocean may have been changed so profoundly that they're never coming back.

Overall, say the authors of the Nature study, we would need to cut total ocean fish catches by 50 percent to give stocks any chance to recover. Instead, fishing pressure may actually be increasing. As big species are wiped out, the fleets go for smaller fish. Pilchard and anchovy catches are way up, in part so that they can be ground into fishmeal and fed to those farmed salmon you find in the supermarket.


''We have forgotten what we used to have,'' Jeremy Jackson of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography told reporters who asked him about the Nature study. ``We had oceans full of heroic fish -- literally sea monsters. People used to harpoon 10-foot-long swordfish in rowboats. Hemingways 'Old Man and the Sea' was for real.''

So were passenger pigeons darkening the sky; so were buffalo herds shaking the plains; so were ancient forests piercing the sky. Now there are only echoes -- and even those we hardly care about. Congress, for instance, still contemplates drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, breeding grounds of one of the worlds last big caribou herds. Perhaps its a good thing our memories are so short. Perhaps we couldn't live with ourselves otherwise. Bill McKibben is the author of 'The End of Nature'.


OBRL-News-Bulletin is a product of the non-profit Orgone Biophysical Research Lab
Greensprings Center, PO Box 1148
Ashland, Oregon 97520 USA
Tel/Fax: 541-552-0118

Building upon the discoveries of the internationally acclaimed natural scientist, Wilhelm Reich.

See also these recent articles:

Oceans Have Fewer Kinds of Fish By Juliet Eilperin - The Washington Post
Friday 29 July 2005
The variety of species in the world's oceans has dropped by as much as 50 percent in the past 50 years, according to a paper published today in the journal Science.

Hooked On Fishing And Were Heading For The Bottom
The world has passed "peak fish" and fishermen's nets will be hauling in ever diminishing loads unless there's political action to stem the global tide of over fishing, says a fisheries expert based at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Daniel Pauly says the crisis in the world's fisheries is less about scientific proof than about attitude and political will.

North Sea cod and herring under threat
June 26, 2006
Researchers in Norway, England and the Netherlands are trying to determine why at least 15 types of fish have moved farther north to colder water, Aftenposten reported Monday, noting some fish not usually seen in the North Sea, such as the swordfish, have been observed.

October 2006: Marine Scientists Report Massive "Dead Zones"
Rising tides of untreated sewage and plastic debris are seriously threatening marine life and habitat around the globe, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) warned in a report Wednesday. The number of ocean "dead zones" has grown from 150 in 2004 to about 200 today, said Nick Nuttall, a UNEP spokesperson.

Study: 90% of the ocean's edible species may be gone by 2048
Oversight of commercial fishing must be strengthened or there may eventually be no more seafood ... 29% of those species have "collapsed," meaning a 90% decline in the amount being fished from the sea, said Boris Worm, lead author and a professor of marine conservation biology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada.

A possible solution: A report on catch share fishing
In an equal share fishery, 50 boats equally divide up a 100 tonne quota of halibut so each is allowed to catch two tonnes. Shares could be traded as well. This "ownership" over the stock provides a financial incentive to grow it.

The key to making it work is each vessel must account for everything they catch. Detailed logs are backed up by a video system that automatically records every fish caught. The logs and videos are audited by a third party and the data is considered so accurate that it is now used by scientists, Erikson said.

"We removed the competition at sea by working it out on shore".


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Tuesday June 10 2003
updated on Tuesday March 3 2009

URL of this article:


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Readers' Comments

A comment received by e-mail from a dear friend in Canada to this article:

One does not have to listen to environmentalists to recognize the truth - all one has to do is to open ones eyes, and see that Nature is spelling it out in no uncertain terms! It is amazing how many people born and raised in blacktop jungles, totally divorced from Nature, educated and entertained by the eternal TV set, no longer have the capacity to see, hear or discern reality from fiction, illusion and wishful thinking.

Nature is the last arbitrator and has the last word - and this is not a problem that technology will solve. Instead an absence of aggressive technology might be a step in the right direction. The "economy of the stock market" will not determine the survival of civilization - the survival of Nature will be the determining criteria, for we are inexorably attached to it. When it is sick, the'economy' crumbles, and survival is imperiled. When it dies, we die with it!

"Seek ye wisdom above all else - search for her as you would search after gold!"

Posted by: Josef on June 16, 2003 09:55 AM


Fish stock decline blamed on local islanders

Our attempts to preserve fisheries, rather than being directed at the real problem - commercial overfishing and the illegal catching of immature fish or toxic run-off into seashore areas from our "civilized" tourism development projects - include such misdirected efforts as telling native islanders, who have lived from sustainable fishery for centuries, that they must improve their methods. How insane can we get?

The following is a message by Neal Perrochet of Environmental Restoration International (ERI) to the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) which gives a good idea of what's going on right there "on the ground", or should I say "in the water...".

To: ICRI From Neal Perrochet ERI

We wrote UNEP [the United Nations Environment Program] on their idea some time ago to use dive tourism as means of fish counting and surveys. We proposed an alternative in Fiji - basic marine science and establishment of dive survey teams (free dive) for ecology pioneer youth organizations integrated with indigenous resource conservation and environmental restoration organizations, with very minimal cost related to such efforts. Since ERI helps represent interests foremost of island people and their own institutions we encourage all parties to the effort of coral reef conservation and protection to consider just this. Our community clients feel strongly that they and their children should have the opportunity for engaging in marine research. ERI feels this is logical, cost benefit analysis is positive, it is a good model for ethics in international assistance protocols and will end up with the best net result over the long haul.

UNEP did not respond and we see no clear or precise initiative in this regard from them, (perhaps they do have one now) but I did notice in your Seychelles meeting minutes and declarations general mention of support for opportunity of local people to take charge of this work with mutually respectful information sharing and training.

Thank you for any attention you can give to disseminating this concept, which is sorely lacking any concrete action based on our field observations and consultations with our community clients.

The Ono District Environmental Organization and any other newly formed indigenous organizations in Fiji, for example, are ready to accept the minimal cost assistance such a proposal would require for implementation. ICRI might be a good partner for this.

There is a lot more to fisheries management than science. There is great sensitivity to Americans, Europeans and others from "developed" countries doing dive surveys and handing over incomprehensible fish population data on glossy spreads to village people, then making a declaration of some sort over how they should utilize or maintain their sovereign land and waters. Please consider the multifaceted aspects of "creating" - by some sort of international fiat "law" or "regulation" - a restriction or penalty protocol aimed at people who have seen their environments, fisheries and livelihoods impacted far more by our exploitation than by local subsistence fishing. The history is long and bitter.

The native peoples of the Pacific Northwest in USA have particular knowledge of this problem and have been very sophisticated and wise in expressing themselves to the benefit of all of us in resource conservation work.

Not to be provacative here, but past experience with "reserves" and "protected areas" often have been less that satisfactory for marginalized peoples.

In a discussion with EU representatives in Fiji, I had occasion to read their policy statement regarding international fisheries resource "allocation" that merely stated that countries bordering the pacific, such as the USA and Japan, had an "unfair" share of Pacific fisheries resources and that EU would use clout to change that status quo.

Whether it is USA, Japan, Europe, there is a "complex" area of analysis in the big picture of environmental destruction and resource exploitation, far removed from science, with hundreds of millions of people demanding of their respective governments some sort of bottom line regarding life-style and requirements for same.

This must be measured against any punitive regulatory measures imposed on indigenous peoples, or international "contracts" taking over control of their land and waters. What I am describing here is nothing new and hopefully not controversial, it is recorded in fact and by proclamation of relatively powerless indigenous groups around the world.

For instance, Ono island group in Fiji obviously has far less population than in precontact era. Fishing pressure is light for basic subsistence. The people eat less and less fish (Like the Luo people around Lake Nyanza in Kenya) and unfortunately are eating unhealthy diets full of imported flour, sugar, frozen chickens from Australia, but fortunately good vegetable production and taro are evident.

One fisheries biologist from the UK came to this region not long ago, went diving, and proclaimed that subsistence fishing by rural islanders was damaging to reefs and should not continue. WWF did much the same thing, but after their dive trips, they did hand over a glossy, expensive looking booklet with the usual graphic and species count charts. I personally witnessed the embarrassment and extreme tension among the council of chiefs when this product was issued to them after their courtesy and hospitality granted to these foreign dive scientists. They are usually "told" they are doing something wrong and that only foreign experts can save them from themselves through the aforementioned devices.

The expense of these "studies" does not translate into actual work or projects to help the people protect their resources. Shockingly, based on our work, there are no serious work related efforts at watershed management, sanitation, ag run-off/integrated pest and weed management protocols, safe toxics (fuel, oil, lubricants) handling and disposals, zero sulphate detergent and soap protocols. Just basic stuff...

Nothing we know of. There are also no initiatives we know of for gradual retreat and restore concepts. But there is lots of talk about "sea walls" from WWF and others, with glossy posters in ministry of environment showing rip rapped shorelines and palm trees.

The shoreside environment and watersheds above the villages, particularly related to agriculture and new herbicide introduction (no burn agriculture, so use herbicides) is of equal importance, we suggest, to international control mechanisms or "laws" impacting the sovereign rights of local people.

We suggest a balanced, integrated approach and voluntary nature of reserves and MPA's based on traditional fishing rights established before European contact. Also, we would appreciate your advice on seasonal management by species and catch limits in these areas. Integrated with carefully worded, respectful suggestions for MPA's and possible implementation thereof, is that something that could work?

The rampage of foreign money backed illegal night fishing on rural islands coming out of Suva is another matter, conflicting with traditional fisheries management territories. Viti Levu has a major fisheries collapse along the "coral coast" in my view mostly due to ag run-off and irresponsible septic disposal from large resorts with no protocols, again, for eco-friendly detergents and soaps. Just go and see it for yourself and appreciate what is going on shoreside, including Suva dumps. The fisheries demand for tourism in Viti Levu and commercial export fishing is problematic for the rural outer islands.

Ministry of Environment is trying hard, but they could use a little backing and assistance.

ERI has been advised by numerous developing country govt sources that foreign NGO's and foreign mission sponsored institutes acting as parallel governments are of great concern to them. Sensitivity and strong ethical boundaries should be considered by all of us working in this area due to these most valid concerns.

Your input is appreciated and desired. Thanks!

Neal Perrochet, ERI

Posted by: Sepp on June 10, 2005 05:12 PM


Its amazing that these documents of collective data were responded to over 10 years ago... And the country decides to cry for help now? Seriously, where were all of you when all of these reports were taken? The dependence of technology has gone south, so will nature. No money nor power will hold peoples together in a deafening nature uproar.

Posted by: Paul on September 6, 2015 08:10 AM


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