FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Our Endangered Ocean

by TODD STEINER

Last month another major warning flag on the state of our oceans was hoisted when Canadian scientists reported that 90 percent of the world’s big fish have disappeared from the seas. Their study found that the largest and some of the most economically important species of fish had been wiped out in the past 50 years by industrialized fishing, in particular, by a fishing method known as longlining.

This study follows another that was presented in February at the U.S.’s most prestigious scientific meeting, the American Association for the Advancement of Science by Duke University professor Dr. Larry Crowder. Crowder reported that industrialized longlining was driving many non-target species toward extinction as well, including the Pacific leatherback sea turtles and some species of seabirds. Collectively, all these marine species are critical to ecosystem dynamics, but are viewed as expendable by an international fishing industry that seeks to maximize short-term profits without taking into account the tremendous environmental costs of their practices.

For example, the pelagic longline industry sets over 5 million baited hooks every day (almost 2 billion annually). The lines used in longlining can be up to 60 miles long with more than 2,000 hooks on each line. These lines catch anything that bites or is unfortunate enough to get hooked while swimming in its path. Not coincidentally, in the past two decades, as longlining has increased, the number of Pacific leatherback sea turtle females that have safely returned from the oceans to their nesting sites has dropped dramatically by over 90%. The international community came together to ban destructive industrial fishing in the past, and it now needs to push for similar action. In 1993, the U.N. banned drift-net fishing on the high seas. The nets had caused a similar crisis at sea, drowning hundreds of thousands of dolphins and other marine species. Unfortunately, after the U.N. ban on this practice, many of these vessels replaced their drift nets with longlines and gill nets.

The endangerment of the Pacific leatherback sea turtle will be just the first in a host of crises if unsustainable fishing practices are not addressed. If we allow the commercial fishing industry to pursue short-term profit without concern for the long-term costs to society, we will see a greater decline in fishery stocks and biodiversity. For that reason, we urge the U.N. to fend off efforts to derail environmental agreements, and institute an international moratorium on pelagic longline and gill-net fishing in the Pacific that harm or kill endangered or threatened marine species.

Hundreds of prominent marine scientists and nongovernmental organizations from more than 50 nations have joined the effort to ban this type of fishing by signing a letter calling for the U.N. moratorium. Broad support from marine experts should send a clear signal to the Bush administration that it needs to rise to the challenge of creating more sustainable global marine policies.

To be sure, promoting a greater level of responsibility and accountability in the world’s fisheries requires determined international leadership, but the consumer has a role as well. Many of the big fish being wiped out by industrial longlining, such as swordfish, sharks and tuna are top-of-the-food-chain predators that have bioaccumulated poisonous mercury in their flesh. The mercury levels in these fish are so high that the FDA and EPA have recommended that women of child-bearing age and children simply not eat these species to protect their health. In California, supermarkets and restaurants are obligated to post warnings about eating these species under Prop 65 Toxics Right to Know Law.

By taking swordfish, tuna and shark off our menus, and demanding that seafood restaurants and retailers provide sustainable seafood choices, we can save the leatherback sea turtle and other marine species from the jaws of industrial fishing fleets. Our choices will reduce demand and send the message to the Bush Administration and the fishing industry that we demand protection of the health of our oceans and of the people who inhabit this planet.

TODD STEINER is director of the Turtle Island Restoration Network; an environmental organization working to protect endangered marine wildlife and the ocean ecosystems on which we all depend.

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Chris Welzenbach
The Forgotten Sneak Attack
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Martha Durkee-Neuman
Millennial Organizers Want to See An Intersectional Understanding Of Gun Violence
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Pierre Labossiere – Margaret Prescod
Human Rights and Alternative Media Delegation Report on Haiti’s Elections
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail