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
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Sam Pizzigati
Companies Can Either Make Things or Make CEOs Rich
Tony McKenna
The Oily Politics of Unity: Owen Smith as Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary
Nizar Visram
If North Korea Didn’t Exist US Would Create It
Jill Richardson
Trump on Cuba: If Obama Did It, It’s Bad
Olivia Alperstein
Our President’s Word Wars
Clark T. Scott
Parallel in Significance
Richard Klin
Prog Rock: Pomp and Circumstance
Charles R. Larson
Review: Malin Persson Giolito’s “Quicksand”
June 22, 2017
Jason Hirthler
Invisible Empire Beneath the Radar, Above Suspicion
Ken Levy
Sorry, But It’s Entirely the Right’s Fault
John Laforge
Fukushima’s Radiation Will Poison Food “for Decades,” Study Finds
Ann Garrison
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party, and the UK’s Socialist Surge
Phillip Doe
Big Oil in the Rocky Mountain State: the Overwhelming Tawdriness of Government in Colorado
Howard Lisnoff
The Spiritual Death of Ongoing War
Stephen Cooper
Civilized, Constitution-Loving Californians Will Continue Capital Punishment Fight
Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla
Cuba Will Not Bow to Trump’s Threats
Ramzy Baroud
Israel vs. the United Nations: The Nikki Haley Doctrine
Tyler Wilch
The Political Theology of US Drone Warfare
Colin Todhunter
A Grain of Truth: RCEP and the Corporate Hijack of Indian Agriculture
Robert Koehler
When the Detainee is American…
Jeff Berg
Our No Trump Contract
Faiza Shaheen
London Fire Fuels Movement to Challenge Inequality in UK
Rob Seimetz
Sorry I Am Not Sorry: A Letter From Millennials to Baby Boomers
June 21, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
Resist This: the United States is at War With Syria
James Ridgeway
Good Agent, Bad Agent: Robert Mueller and 9-11
Diana Johnstone
The Single Party French State … as the Majority of Voters Abstain
Ted Rall
Democrats Want to Lose the 2020 Election
Kathy Kelly
“Would You Like a Drink of Water?” Please Ask a Yemeni Child
Russell Mokhiber
Sen. Joe Manchin Says “No” to Single-Payer, While Lindsay Graham Floats Single-Payer for Sick People
Ralph Nader
Closing Democracy’s Doors Until the People Open Them
Binoy Kampmark
Barclays in Hot Water: The Qatar Connection
Jesse Jackson
Trump Ratchets Up the Use of Guns, Bombs, Troops, and Insults
N.D. Jayaprakash
No More Con Games: Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now! (Part Four)
David Busch
The Kingdom of Pence–and His League of Flaming Demons–is Upon Us
Stephen Cooper
How John Steinbeck’s “In Dubious Battle” Helps Us Navigate Social Discord
Madis Senner
The Roots of America’s Identity and Our Political Divide are Buried Deep in the Land
June 20, 2017
Ajamu Baraka
The Body Count Rises in the U.S. War Against Black People
Gary Leupp
Russia’s Calm, But Firm, Response to the US Shooting Down a Syrian Fighter Jet
Maxim Nikolenko
Beating Oliver Stone: the Media’s Spin on the Putin Interviews
Michael J. Sainato
Philando Castile and the Self Righteous Cloak of White Privilege
John W. Whitehead
The Militarized Police State Opens Fire
Peter Crowley
The Groundhog Days of Terrorism
Norman Solomon
Behind the Media Surge Against Bernie Sanders
Pauline Murphy
Friedrich Engels: a Tourist In Ireland
David Swanson
The Unifying Force of War Abolition
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail