The Dying Oceans

Awareness Slowly Growing of Collapsing Fish Populations Yet Nations Refuse to Implement Change

It's really frustrating having to predict the consequences of ignoring the laws of ecology, having the media ignore the predictions and then watching a decade or decades later when the media runs new stories when these same predictions become reality.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been predicting the collapse of worldwide commercial fisheries since 1977 when we were first founded. We warned the Canadian media repeatedly in 1982 that the cod fishery would collapse. We sent warnings to the Australian and New Zealand media in the mid-Eighties that the Orange roughy fishery would collapse and we have been warning the public about the collapse of the Chilean sea bass (Patagonia toothfish) fishery that is happening right now.

Despite this, even Whole Foods Market continues to sell Chilean Sea bass.

This week, the L.A. Times ran an excellent article by Kenneth Weiss entitled Not Enough Fish in the Sea. (November 26, 2006)

The article illustrates that "90% of the big fish - tuna, cod and swordfish - are gone from the oceans. If the serial depletions continue unabated, a group of scientists recently predicted, major seafood stocks will collapse by 2048."

According to the article only "6% of the global fish catch is certified as "sustainable," meaning that fish are not pulled from the ocean faster than they can reproduce and are not caught in ways that destroy other sea life or undersea habitat.

The reality is that although some retailers like Wal-Mart and MacDonald's are exploring "sustainable alternatives," there is simply no way to sustainably remove fish from the ocean faster than they can reproduce and because of human population escalation coupled with a greater demand for seafood consumption, the fish are being exterminated.

Sea Shepherd believes the recent paper from Dalhousie University predicting the collapse of worldwide fisheries by 2048 is very optimistic.

"I will be surprised if there is a still a commercial fishing industry by 2020," said Captain Paul Watson, founder and president of Sea Shepherd.

To illustrate the seriousness of this prediction, Watson cites the vote a few days ago in the United Nations that failed to ban destructive bottom trawling on the high seas.
After weeks of talks in New York, a United Nations committee that oversees high seas fisheries failed to gain unanimous support this week for ending unregulated bottom trawling.
Canada, Iceland, and Russia, along with China and South Korea, resisted a proposed ban that had the backing of President George Bush and US allies such as Australia, New Zealand, Britain, and Norway.

"There were several countries that really didn't want any controls at all," Assistant Secretary of State Claudia McMurray said.

These nations acted out of greed and self interest in opposing a draft resolution that simply recommends that nations either ensure boats are not causing harm or "cease to authorize fishing vessels flying their flag to conduct bottom fisheries" on the high seas.
The draft resolution also asks fishery management organizations to help reduce damage from bottom trawling.

There is nothing overly radical here other than the idea of conserving entire species of fish in the ocean.

"If nations like Canada and China have no interest in ensuring the future for life in the oceans, the seas are screwed," said Captain Watson.

More than 60 conservation groups campaigned for more than two years for a ban on unregulated high seas bottom trawling. All of that effort, time, and expense was shot down by the vetoes of Iceland, Norway, China, Korea, and Canada.

Joshua Reichert, director of the private Pew Charitable Trusts' environment division, which coordinated the groups' campaign, called the rejection of the ban "a stunning example of dysfunctional decision-making and the unwillingness of the world's nations to stand up and just say 'No' to activity that is destroying the global marine environment."
"I think that these nations have demonstrated that world governments are incapable of making decisions to safeguard our future," said Captain Watson. "The problem is that politicians are only interested in keeping people happy who can vote for them and provide campaign contributions now. The future is an abstraction to them."