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DECLINES IN FISH STOCKS WORLDWIDE_the ecology of exinction

 
 
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 06:14 am
Several participants in the whaling threads have attempted to interpose discussions of overfishing and "Whose the most culpable for overfishing ". This thread is an attempt to bring the discussion of the relationships of overfishing, declining fish stocks, and the nations involved. Moreover, Id like to discuss this in terms of an ecological problem so that the decline of , say, Atlantic cod stocks can be viewed not only as a problem of who's at fault, but to help us understand the "cascade" of events that have led to the decline and failure in recovery of these stocks.

The decline of the Atlantic Codfish in the 1990's began abruptly after several decades of intense fishing by several nations (primarily Canada, Russia, Japan, Norway,) The US has its own cod grounds and most of its cod stocks were exported. The total increase of cod landings during the 1970's and 80's was supported by " seafood ecologists" who stated that this actual fishing was "Stimulating the cod to reproduce faster"

The increase of cod (actually an artifact) bore no resenblence to the predicted "increase" that the government scientists offered us. In the early 1990's codfish stocks just tanked. Primarily in the Canadian waters , the fish had just disappeared,prompting a finger point fest . Followup research has shown that the stocks are not recovering because the complex ecology of this event was not merely a "fishing/no fishing" relationship. It appeared that, from followon studies, the codfish are actually evolving into a new morphology. The "new" cods are more lean (almost gaunt looking as opposed to the "fat cod"ook of the pre 1990's). ALso the codhead has shown the predominance of a more "asheepshead" look with the mouth decidedly taking a southern trend as the "new" codfish are being favored for bottom feeding. The great
Codfish crash was actually the result of a complex interaction of overfishing (actually increasing takes per year ) , removl of predators as the CAnadians hunted the seals that raided their aquaculture pens (The seals were responsible for keeping cod predators in check, and one of the most influential was the removal of baitfish from the food chain. The complex interaction of thee events has resulted in the decline of cod stocks in a fashion that has made the entire "industry" of seafood ecology take note that it isnt as mature a scientific discipline that it made us believe.
So codfish arent so much going extinct, although the "subspecies" of the more pelagic feeding cod have all but disappeared due to the complex of interactions Ive suggested (from my own readings). The rise of the bottom-feeding form of cod seems to be taking over and expressing itself as the dominant form.

The subject of overfishing and the results play into the fact that there is a huge food web in which all sea creatures are members. As our sciences realize that they dont know everything and that perhaps weve only begun understanding the questions.

Id welcome any inputs on this . Im a wool gatherer when it comes to commercial fishing. Ive been out on several commercial boats as "dayhop" crewman . Ive seen the take and learned the "rules " of the take for lobster men, oystermen (Chessie callem selves "watermen") tuna, cod, and even sardine netting. Ive always wanted to do a short stint as a fisherman on a longliner but Id need too much special training on how to keep from getting impaled by the hooks. I also want to go out swordfishing but most of those guys are all family centered in Mass. and not Maine.

My experience has led me to note that the real individual fishermen dont want their stocks to disappear so they have been, for the most part, good stewarts. The real challenge is from the huuge multinational factory fleets who vacuum the bottom of the sea and move on. The complex interrelationship of seabottom, baitfish, target species, and international non regulation of fishing is, in my view, the problem. Weve never handled the entire industry as one big interrelated web of life , instead weve handled it, planet wide, as a disconnected group of target fish and seafood species each unrelated to the next

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Type: Discussion • Score: 20 • Views: 24,977 • Replies: 596

 
dadpad
 
  1  
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 06:21 am
i have seen sme questions being asked about the (seemingly) over abundabce of certain types of jelly fish.

One theory has it that overfishing has reduced fish stocks to a point where they no longer control the jelly fish population.
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 06:29 am
@farmerman,
Thanks for starting this thread, farmer. Long overdue.
I'm by no means any sort expert in this area, so I'll be here to listen, learn & probably end up doing a bit of my own research as we go.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  0  
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 06:34 am
The problem i have with large scale fishing is that it is essentially unnecessary. There are farmed fish, and there is a good deal of fishing of the "non-factory" type which can yield wild catches that don't seem to be dangerous to species. There are also, of course, completely manageable sources of animal protein--beef, pork, mutton, poultry--by land. But factory style fishing takes absolutely no account of resource management. Proponents (in my admittedly limited experience) don't want to discuss the issue species versus managed livestock (in which i include farmed fish).

The Japanese don't need to subsist on heavy amounts of fish, it is only a cultural choice. Horny old Chinese bastards don't need shark fin to give them the illusion of virility. Neither North Americans nor Europeans need to stuff themselves with the latest fad fish from a wild source. The oceans are important to us on so many levels, and one significant importance of the ocean is its regulatory effect on the climate. There's just too much we don't know about the ocean to just give in to the greed of capitalist who want to sell the Japanese bluefin tuna because of the outrageous profits to be made.
farmerman
 
  0  
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 07:01 am
@Setanta,
Actually the US , even though we import most of our seafood, we selects from primarly aquaculture facilities. Our two largest sources are Canada and Sunda Sea nations.

"Fad fish" as it turns out, can have a significant impact on te entire web of life surrounding that fish. An example was "Chilean Seabass" (a made-up name for a type of of fish in the cod/pollock. family) Chilean seabass was vacuumed from its hom grounds and the result has been a huge increase in fish species that compete with the cod fry and drive the fry even deeper into decline.
Ive used the word extinction with care because extinctio is often a recognized roadsign that "EVOLUTION IS GOING ON HERE_MOVE ON" When I read about the (Apparent) rapid evolution of the Atlantic Cod I let a colleague(an ecologist from the University of Delaware) know about this several years ago and hes had several of his students do a combined research project into the recorded species diversity of codfish using everything from GPS data on catch records to per pound catch records to photos of codfish cases at the Fulton Fish MArket . The purpose is to determine the pre stressed percntages that these "Sheepsheaded carp mouthed codfish" variants represented in a wild population. Weve been killing off the pelagic "non sheepsheaded" cod by fishing and by increasing the predation of the fry of these "fat" forms where the fish dwell more in middle waters rather than the sessile benthic forms now showing up as the predominant forms.


I agree about farming v wild stocks. All animals raised for meat are asssessible based upon cost of feed v energy costs v carbon footprint. We can do that and complete an energy/resources budget, and this will be reflected in the costs. For seafood , we have NO IDEA about what were affecting when we dip our nets in the water. We just make up these reasons that say, w\
"Well, the amount of units of this seafood is immense and all were doing is taking a small percentage of the stock" Yet we dont know a damn thing about how the interaction of the ocean ecosystems involved
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  0  
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 07:10 am
I believe genetic diversity is also a problem in "stressed" species, is it not?
farmerman
 
  0  
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 07:22 am
@Setanta,
yep, swordfish arent so much tanking even though overfished. Theyve evolved into a much smaller subspecies that has almost a familial genetic relationship among individuals (ie very small bottlenecked diversity).
We, by fishing out the choice ones , are unknowingly hybridizing the remaining stocks into one or more morphological differences that have given the resulting species an edge. (like the sheepshead cod dont hit the same kinds of hooks because the hooks are classically several feet off the bottom). New cod fishing will have to "think like a carp"
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  0  
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 07:26 am
I heard a report on CBC several years ago in which they interviewed a gentleman from Dalhousie University (Halifax, NS) who estimated a century or more for the Atlantic cod to recover, if there were a complete ban, and suggesting that that species might have been overfished to the point at which it could not recover.
farmerman
 
  0  
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 07:33 am
@Setanta,
Dalhousie's Instititute of MArine Bioscience is heavily into aquaculture and researchers have been trying to actually farm these sheepshead variants of cod(The thinking was that they already know how to farm raise halibut so why not work with newly evolved codfish). Ive seen nothing about any of their success or failure.
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 10:15 am
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:
The Japanese don't need to subsist on heavy amounts of fish, it is only a cultural choice.


Japan has the least arable land (by ratio) of any nation on earth and one of the highest population densities. It is not a cultural choice to look to the sea for food as their land simply cannot sustain them.
hamburgboy
 
  1  
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 10:22 am
@farmerman,
fm : i'm sure you recall that part of the piracy problem off the somali coast - and surrounding areas - is the overfishing by foreign nations in somali waters .
the fishstocks were greatly diminished and some somalis " retaliated " .
" vacuuming " fishstocks is a pretty ugly practice . a lot of the vacuumed fish are actually never taken aboard but dumped ( dead ) at sea .
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 10:23 am
@farmerman,
farmerman wrote:
The subject of overfishing and the results play into the fact that there is a huge food web in which all sea creatures are members.


This is one reason I don't know why on the whaling thread the notion that overfishing is not related came up. Japan is in the IWC due to threats related to fishing rights and Japan's whaling organization argues that whales consume more fish than do humans and compete with humans for this resource:

Quote:
The Japanese whale research program has obtained valuable information on whales by using non-lethal and lethal research.It has also enabled us to calculate the amount of fish consumed by whales - which is approximately between 280 million tonnes and 500 million tonnes per year. In contrast, humans harvest around 90 million tonnes of fish each year.


If whales really do consume more fish than do all humans (a claim I have not personally researched and hesitate to accept), and if the specific whales species being hunted are not endangered but fish stocks are, then this argument for culling them is similar to that used when humans do this around the world and overfishing is deeply related to whaling.
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 10:42 am
@Robert Gentel,
Robert Gentel wrote:
Japan has the least arable land (by ratio) of any nation on earth....


I started to suspect my claim was not accurate and was wondering if I am confusing this claim with one about Japan having the highest ratio of mountains. Anyway, I looked it up and it is incorrect:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/85/Arable_land_percent_world.png/800px-Arable_land_percent_world.png

But the essential point of my post stands (e.g. nations with a lower percentage of arable land are almost invariably nations with much lower population density and are often starving themselves), Japan can't feed itself through its land. Aside from arable land the place is pretty much all mountains, and raising animals on land isn't very viable either (you rarely see animals raised there except for small chicken farms).

A more accurate way to have made my claim would be to compare the arable land to their population which shows the problem much more clearly.
Cycloptichorn
 
  0  
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 10:44 am
@Robert Gentel,
I have a hard time believing that as well, re: whales consuming 500 tons of fish per year.

Cycloptichorn
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 10:53 am
@Cycloptichorn,
I had no previous estimate of what they ate so the specific number doesn't surprise me or seem hard to believe, I just really have no idea what all the whales in the world eat. But I just have not seen that claim anywhere else yet, and won't start giving it any credence till I find more substantiation for it.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  0  
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 10:56 am
@Robert Gentel,
Quote:
. . . Japan can't feed itself through its land.


That is hardly a basis upon which to insist that the Japanese be allowed to fish and "whale" as they choose. Whether it is fish or whales they have taken themselves, or imports, the ingrained rapacious capitalism of the Japanese economic system is such that they pay enormous prices for the fish they eat, and often precisely because they insist on eating particular species of fish which are "popular."

They could as well meet their protein needs by importing livestock or the meat. One might argue that they have never been eaters of pork or mutton, and that they have traditionally not eaten very much poultry. But, traditionally they were never whalers, and ate no whale meat until within the last 50 years. And, they have long been eaters of beef. Australia is nearby, and could meet a significant proportion of their demand for beef at a much lower price than they now pay for fish.

Traditional livestock food sources have been exploited for nearly 10,000 years, and are sustainable, and without doing any damage to the pelagic biosphere. To repeat myself, we really have no idea of the extent of damage we may be doing to the oceans, and there is a high probability that we may be upsetting systems crucial to the "self-regulation" of the climate.

I can see no plausible argument that the Japanese should be allowed to plunder the oceans, just because they have a taste for fish and whale meat, rather than on the basis of bald necessity.

I also find your argument about their arable land to be suspect. How much of their land is mountain does not measure how much of their land is arable. You cannot import into Japan rice which is only milled and not processed. That means that all the grain rice in Japan is grown there. Imported rice products come mostly from the United States, such as the sushi (which is actually a rice cake) upon which they serve their bluefin tuna and their abalone (another large import product from the United States). I don't deny that you are correct, but i also see no reason to accept your contention based on only a statement of how much of their land is mountainous. Anyone who has traveled in Asia will recall seeing rice paddies terraced up the hillsides on land which noone in Europe or North America would even consider attempting to cultivate.
Setanta
 
  0  
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 11:01 am
@Robert Gentel,
Nonsense. They import much of the fish they eat. They could as well import beef.
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 11:05 am
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:
That is hardly a basis upon which to insist that the Japanese be allowed to fish and "whale" as they choose.


I was responding to the claim that it is a cultural choice, nowhere do I ever say they should be able to use the sea as they wish (elsewhere I've mentioned that I largely support the regulations imposed on the Japanese fishing industry by other nations protecting their fishing rights).

Quote:
They could as well meet their protein needs by importing livestock of their meat. One might argue that they have never been eaters of pork or mutton, and that they have traditionally not eaten very much poultry. But, traditionally they were never whalers, and ate no whale meat until within the last 50 years. And, they have long been eaters of beef. Australia is nearby, and could meet a significant proportion of their demand for beef at a much lower price than they now pay for fish.


Almost all the food I ate in Japan came from Australia (I don't eat sea food, so thanks Oz for the mutton and all), I know they can import it all and increasingly they are, but the point I wanted to make is that it wasn't just a cultural decision, their diet is hugely shaped by their land.

While they can and do import much of their food, like any nation they also like to be able to control as much of their food sources as they can and for their land that just happens to mean they better like sea food.

Quote:
I can see no plausible argument that the Japanese should be allowed to plunder the oceans, just because they have a taste for fish and whale meat, rather than on the basis of bald necessity.


Again, I don't make this claim. Just disputing the notion that Japan's taste for sea food is just a cultural thing.

Quote:
I also find your argument about their arable land to be suspect. How much of their land is mountain does not measure how much of their land is arable. You cannot import into Japan rice which is only milled an not processed. That means that all the grain rice in Japan is grown there.


Japan can't grow enough rice to feed its population, they are very picky about their rice (which I don't really like myself) and this has been an issue of much consternation, that is why they typically prefer imported rice to be in rice products, they claim it's barely edible (Japanese are hilariously picky about their sticky nasty rice).


Quote:
Imported rice products come mostly from the United States, such as ths suchi (which is actually a rice cake) upon which they serve their bluefin tuna and their abalone (another large import product from the United States). I don't deny that you are correct, but i also see no reason to accept your contention based on only a statement of how much of their land is mountainous. Anyone who has traveled in Asia will recall seeing rice paddies terraced up the hillsides on land which no in Europe or North America would even consider attempting to cultivate.


Yeah, I remember living in places like that (I've lived on Japanese farms in the mountains, one thing that stands out is how they are all very small). but still, the bottom line I maintain is correct: they do not have the ability to feed themselves from their own land and this was not a cultural choice. They make a big stink about imported rice and hate it (in typical Japanese fashion they think it's not as good as their own stuff), but they have to eat it anyway because they can't even produce all their own rice anymore.

Of course, none of this means they should be allowed to engage in non-sustainable use of the ocean, if anything it should be clear that sustainable use of the ocean is in their interests, but that wasn't my point, I'm just saying that their unique dependence on the ocean owes a lot to their unique land that drives them to find food in the sea, as opposed to being just a cultural issue (it is also a cultural issue, but because of necessity).
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 11:11 am
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:
Nonsense. They import much of the fish they eat. They could as well import beef.


They do. But their land doesn't support a beef diet and this is why it is not as heavily featured in their diet, it is not a cultural choice it's the predictable consequence of the land they are born on.

No nation likes to have all their food come from imports, Japan necessarily has to import more and more food now (and as a result more and more beef is being eaten) but their diet being based on seafood is a result of their choices being very limited.

Importing all your food is dangerous for any country (not just for things like war, but economic problems overseas can make your citizens go hungry) and for them to control their own food sources means for them to rely heavily on the sea.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  0  
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 11:21 am
@Robert Gentel,
Robert Gentel wrote:
. . . but the point I wanted to make is that it wasn't just a cultural decision, their diet is hugely shaped by their land.


You're either being disingenous and erecting a straw man, or you failed to understand what i'm saying. Their choice to eat fish and whale meat is a cultural choice, and of pretty recent date. The Japanese did not become blue water sailors until after the end of the Meiji era, in the mid-19th century. Even then, it was not until the 20th century that they began to become large scale pelagic fishers--and they only started hunting the whale after the Second World War.

Quote:
Again, I don't make this claim. Just disputing the notion that Japan's taste for sea food is just a cultural thing.


Well, obviously, i disagree. During the Tokugawa shogunate, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the population of Japan was about 30,000,000 and rising, and at the beginning of that period, they produced about 25,000,000 koku of rice per annum. A koku is variously defined as 170 or 180 liters or rice (and some wild variation is seen among historians), but the important measure is that it was considered sufficient rice to feed an adult male for one year. The production of rice during the Tokugawa shogunate increased at about the same rate as the population, as more land was brought into production, and agricultural methods were perfected. Just as was the case in Europe at the time, most people simply didn't eat meat, including fish. What fish they got they got from the inland sea, and it was reserved (apart for the fishing villages themselves) almost exclusively for the Bushi class and the Daimyo. But significantly, they continued to produce sufficient rice for domestic needs, and imported other foods from their conquered territories in Korea.

Once again, the taste for fish and whale meat is of very recent date, and is a cultural choice, because they could as easily meet their protein needs from imported foods, which would cost no more, and very likely much less than the fish they import.

The following is a statement made in 1996 by the then Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Takoa Fujimoto at World Food Summit in Rome:

Quote:
Japan's self-sufficiency ratio for cereals is as low as 30 percent, an exceptionally low level compared to other developed countries. Because of this background, most of our nationals are concerned over the future food situation in our country. Taking this into account, our agricultural policy stresses the maintenance and expansion, as appropriate, of domestic production, making effective use of our existing production resources.

However, since it is difficult to supply all necessary food from domestic production, due to limited production resources such as land, we are striving to best respond to the needs of our nationals by appropriately combining food imports and stockpiling in addition to domestic food production.


Note that the 30% refers to cereal production, and not just rice. Buckwheat has long been grown in Japan, largely to make noodles. Even in Tokugawa Japan, they didn't nearly produce all the wheat they consumed, and got most of what they ate from Korea (which they had partially conquered in the period just before Tokugawa Ieyasu became Shogun).

Quote:
. . . they do not have the ability to feed themselves from their own land and this was not a cultural choice.


Meeting their food needs with fish and whale meat is the cultural choice to which i have been referring. I would rather not have to repeat that again and again. By the way, in Miss Olga's whaling thread, DP posted information which shows that the Japanese eat a half pound of fish per capita each day, and that does not include whale meat (of course, whales are not fish).
 

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