Volume 11 Number 3 May 2007 Donald R. Dann
With due apologies to Dr. Seuss, many species of the world’s fish are in serious decline. Nature magazine reports that populations of swordfish, tuna, sharks and similar large predators have dropped by as much as 90%. Reckless over-fishing and pollution have laid waste to large areas of the planet’s marine life. In the U. S. fifty-four species are classified as over-fished, 45 are experiencing over-fishing and just over half of the nation's stocks remain in an uncertain status. Unless current practices change, by mid-century the journal Science reports commercial harvests of many species could collapse to 10 % of their historical highs.
Actions by government and non government organizations:
- Create marine reserves that are off limits to all forms of human activity other than passive observation or scientific study. These would be similar to land based wildlife refuges.
- Support Limited Access Privilege Programs (LAPPS), whereby fishermen participate in a managed system where they each can catch an allotted amount of fish based on a scientifically-determined, fully enforced limit on the total number of fish caught and landed. Both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have endorsed the idea and in the
Gulf of Mexico’s Red Snapper fishery, fishermen voted in favor of the program by an overwhelming 87%.
- Establish controls on by-catch — the unintentional killing of fish and other ocean life.
- Prohibit fishing via huge ocean-floor dredges.
- Encourage the National Marine Fisheries Service to require a moratorium on commercial take of threatened or endangered species where none exist.
Actions we can take as individuals:
- Make your seafood choices fish that are abundant, come from well-managed fisheries, or are caught or farmed in environmentally sound ways. These include several species of farmed fish including Arctic Char, Catfish, Clams, Mussels, Oysters, Stone Crab, Striped Bass, and Tilapia to name a few. Wild caught Alaskan Halibut and Salmon are excellent, and line caught Albacore and Skipjack Tuna are also good. For a complete list see http://www.mbayaq.org/cr/seafoodwatch.asp
- Try to avoid trawler caught fish. These ships are so large they can take well over 200 tons of fish from the ocean floor in one sweep. Ask for the many species of fish that are still caught by small nets, line or pot. Seafood markets may soon begin to display signs like ‘line caught’, especially if consumers begin asking.
- Many species of fish should be shunned, like Chilean Seabass, Atlantic Cod and Salmon, imported King Crab, Orange Roughy, Sharks and Bluefin Tuna. The above link lists these as well.
- Eat fish lower on the marine food chain, including smaller species such as clams, oysters, mollusks, anchovies, and sardines. Smaller species are less endangered because they are more abundant, reproduce faster, and consume even tinier ocean life themselves.
Please do your part by being a wise fish consumer and advocate the restoration of ocean health a top priority for our political leaders.
This Newsletter may be excerpted, reproduced or circulated without limitation.