Oceans Have Fewer Kinds of Fish

Reply Fri 29 Jul, 2005 11:35 am
Oceans Have Fewer Kinds of Fish

Oceans Have Fewer Kinds Of Fish
Overfishing Among Causes, Study Says

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 29, 2005; A03

The variety of species in the world's oceans has dropped by as much as 50 percent in the past 50 years, according to a paper published today in the journal Science.

A combination of overfishing, habitat destruction and climate change has narrowed the range of fish across the globe, wrote biologists Boris Worm and Ransom A. Myers of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia and three other scientists. In some areas, such as off northwest Australia where a wide variety of tuna and billfish used to thrive, diversity has declined precipitously.

"Where you used to put out a fishing line 50 years ago and catch 10 species, now you catch five species for the same amount of effort," Worm said in an interview yesterday. "That's a recipe for ecological collapse and disaster."

The study, which marks the first worldwide mapping of predatory fish diversity, identified five hot spots in the world that have a rich variety of species, two of them in U.S. waters. The hot spots are areas off the east coast of Florida, south of Hawaii, near Australia's Great Barrier Reef, near Sri Lanka and in the South Pacific north of Easter Island.

"These areas are really of global significance," Worm said. "It's really important to protect them now, because 20 years from now they may not be there."

The total catch for tuna and billfish has increased as much as tenfold over the past half-century, they found, prompting fish diversity to plummet. Overfishing is the main factor in these species' decline, Worm said, as well as for other fish caught inadvertently.

"That's what's driving the pattern," he said.

But in an example of how shifts in temperature can also affect diversity, the study found that in the Pacific, the variety of fish expanded when the weather pattern known as El Niño swept in and brought warmer surface water but then contracted when temperatures dropped.

Predatory fish appear to like medium temperatures, around 77 degrees Fahrenheit, Myers said. "Like Goldilocks and the three bears, ocean animals don't like it too hot or too cold, they like it just right."

To do the study, Worm and Myers -- along with Marcel Sandow, Heike K. Lotze and Andreas Oschlies of Germany's Leibniz Institute for Marine Science -- used data from Japanese long-line fisheries going back to the 1950s, which they cross-referenced with U.S. and Australian scientific observer data.

The researchers determined that tuna and billfish are indicators of wider ocean diversity, and that these species are disappearing in many areas. Mid-size predators -- snake mackerel and pelagic stingrays -- are taking their place.

Worm compared the diminishing range of species to a poorly distributed stock portfolio that is ill-equipped to respond to economic and environmental shifts.

"As [fishing] markets change, as the climate changes, you have nothing to fall back on," he said.

Myers said international authorities need to ban fishing in ecologically valuable sites.

"We need protected areas in the open ocean," he said. "The open ocean is still open access."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Not good. Not good at all.
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Reply Fri 29 Jul, 2005 01:17 pm
sumac, solving the crisis isn't going to be an easy feat - if the attempt will alter the course at all, and with no leadership from the United States, <or other nations>
coastal waters as well as open sea water, will likely not recover from human greed.

From lawmakers:

Legislation has been introduced in Congress to begin implimenting recomendations from .the Pew Oceans Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy -- Two bills are particularly important. The first is the "Oceans 21" bill introduced by the bipartisan co-chairs of the Oceans Caucus in the House of Representatives (Republicans James C. Greenwood and Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania and Democrats Sam Farr of California and Tom Allen of Maine). The bill seeks to implement many of the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, whose final report relating to governance of oceans issues will be delivered soon. Federal authority over oceans is a regulatory mishmash. The bill would set, for the first time, clear national policy on the subject and endow federal institutions with the power to implement it, focusing not on individual species or isolated environmental problems but on oceanic ecosystems.

The second is legislation introduced by Rep. Nick J. Rahall (D-W.Va.) and Mr. Farr to reform the regional management councils that determine how many fish can be taken from American waters and who gets what portion of the allowable catch. Some of these councils are more effective than others in protecting habitats, but the councils tend to be dominated by fishing interests. Their members are not bound by normal conflict-of-interest rules, and they do not always follow scientific analyses in setting limits. The bill would begin correcting these problems. Most important, it would tether conservation decisions more closely to the best available science regarding ecosystem health and separate these conservation decisions from those about allocating the catch.

President Bush, who has been largely silent on the subject, is obliged by law to respond to the Ocean Commission report. He should treat these issues with a seriousness he has not often shown on environmental matters. The threat to the oceans -- and to countless species threatened by overfishing, pollution, nutrient and chemical runoff, and invasive species -- represents one of the most pressing ecological crises of our time. It cannot wait much longer for leadership.

note: the administration plans seismic blasting in coastal waters, further endangering ocean mammals, sea life, and habitat.
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Reply Fri 29 Jul, 2005 02:51 pm
I knew the general gist of some of that but it is good to see the specifics of the two bills spelled out. Thanks, Stradee.
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Reply Fri 29 Jul, 2005 03:09 pm
Truth be told this really goes back several generations and has been compounded on a regular basis by tax and spend Democrats. Democrats do not care if there are fewer fish and keep in mind that there are a number of reasons for the changes in fish population. Less trees and less varieties of trees. Less species of birds. Now you may well ask yourself what do birds and trees (and other animals) have to do with fish. Simple. Trees help maintain certain elements of the air such as the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels which in turn have an effect upon the oceans. Birds and other animals have life spans and decaying processes which in turn feed the trees which have an effect upon the air and the oceans. It all intertwines and comes back around and the fewer species of fish has an effect on birds which swoop down and gobble up those fish and on other animals which devour the fish and the creatures which dine upon the animals which eat the fish.
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Reply Fri 29 Jul, 2005 03:24 pm
Sturgis said:

Democrats do not care if there are fewer fish ....

Now, please. Let's try to keep politics to a minimum here. I am active on some political discussions here, so am not averse to it in principle.

We know that over-fishing of coastal and near-coastal waters has led to problems from time to time. But there are many more factors that come to play in our oceanic systems. And tax and spend on land ain't among them, whoever votes for what spending legislation, and when.

Truth be told, your discussion of the ecological wholeness of our systems, and conservation, has long been a more popular topic amongst those of the Democratic philosophy. As opposed to Republicans as a group.

So we had better stick with oceanography, global systems as a whole, other nations' fishing practices, polluting practices, and a host of other variables which might play a part in this.
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Reply Fri 29 Jul, 2005 09:24 pm
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Reply Sat 30 Jul, 2005 06:51 am

What a fantastic post! I was coming here to say that this journalism piece reported on just one piece of research, but that there was much more good solid evidence out there. Then I was going to go do some research to bring it here. You saved me some time and effort.

In your post, above, you quoted:

According toa United Nations report, commercial fisheries discard an average of 54 billion pounds of fish bycatch each year.

Now, whatever else (considerable) is wrong with our global ocean harvesting practices, this is surely a sin.

There is no excuse for throwing away anything of nutrient value. None. Either it should be frozen or dried in hot ovens onboard. No excuse. None.
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Reply Sat 30 Jul, 2005 09:53 am
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Reply Sat 30 Jul, 2005 11:17 am
I so wish I had stayed with my first major in college - oceanography. Might have, had I been in a university with a strong academic presence in that area. What a career I could have had!
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Reply Sat 30 Jul, 2005 12:05 pm
sumac, life has a way of leading folks to the very place their supposed to be, imo.

What would you be doing right now had you gotten a degree in Oceanography, <besides screaming from the rootops toward policy makers deaf ears>

See, you're doing exactly what your supposed to be doing. Very Happy
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Reply Sat 30 Jul, 2005 12:32 pm
I would be working out of Woods Hole or Scripps, doing good productive research, and yes, probably screaming.
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Reply Sat 30 Jul, 2005 02:33 pm
I'd choose the North Coast of CA for field work, and also coral reefs <that are fast disappearing> for today's scientific studies.

The eco-system so out of balance, I doubt there's a viable solution though - even with in-depth study warnings.

The Sea Otter, once abundant along the CA coast, in danger of extinction due to habitat depletion. Cousteau studied the wonderful animals, clearly predicting their demise from overfishing and pollution, and at that time, there was still reason to believe Sea Otters could recover.

Over 30 years ago - the powers that be still arn't listening.
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Reply Sat 30 Jul, 2005 03:21 pm
Yup, but that doesn't stop them from spending millions through Department of Defense funding on ocean and maritime related issues. As long as the knowledge gleaned adds to military/defense goals. Not the needs of the oceans and its critters themselves.
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Reply Sat 30 Jul, 2005 03:43 pm
And not just in greedy, industrialized nations either:


Belize Barrier Reef in danger from Climatechange - UNESCO

Saturday, 30 July 2005

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee (WHC), at their meeting in Durban, South Africa last week recognised "the impacts of climate change are affecting many and are likely to affect many more World Heritage properties" and that "early action" is needed to respond to these threats.

The Committee accepted a U.K. proposal to host a meeting of the expert group, including the petitioners, which will report next year, on a response to the threat.

The petitioners refer-red to, included the Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO), as well as advocates from Nepal and Peru.

The BELPO petition, filed last November, asked the World Heritage Committee to declare the Belize Barrier Reef World Heritage site "In Danger" and take remedial steps to protect it.

Though UNESCO did not make any decision on whether to put the Belize Barrier Reef and two other World Heritage Sites [Everest (Sagarmatha) National Park, in Nepal and the Huascar?n National Park, in Peru] on the UN danger list, the fact that climate change is now on the World Heritage Committee agenda is a step in the right direction.

The reality is that damage continues to take its toll on the reef and other world heritage sites around the world. Our commitment is to preserve these places for future generations and the longer we delay, the worse it gets.

Candy Gonzalez on behalf of BELPO, the Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy, said: "The reef system is under enormous stress from the changing climate, hurricanes, uncontrolled development, disease and other degradation. Though many Belizeans have worked in various ways to try to keep safe the sites, to protect the reef, and to revitalise the areas that have been badly damaged, it is very difficult when too many people look only to gain something today with no care as to what is left for the future."

The World Heritage Convention legally requires all countries " to pass intact World Heritage Sites to future generations ."

This will not happen unless urgent action is taken. The thrust of the campaign is to focus on the fact that urgent action is needed now.
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Reply Sat 30 Jul, 2005 03:47 pm
And also,

Our Inheritance Fading with the tide!

Friday, 15 July 2005

By Special Correspondent

This government of Belize under Prime Minister Said Musa is not satisfied with destroying Belize's economy, It is contributing big-time to the destruction of our environment.

Belize has a chance to recover from a crippled economy, but it will not recover from an environment strangled by greed and lack of vision. When the environment is destroyed, the destruction is permanent. There is no second chance at recovery.

Belize has been blessed with a superb environment. This has made the country outstanding. Anybody who destroys this beautiful environment will condemn Belizeans to a life of misery.

Today in Belize there are maritime operations which destroy our coral and marine environment. The operations result from vessels which operated commercially in a manner that is hazardous and destructive of our coral reefs and atolls which cannot ever be replaced or renewed.

Not only does the Government allow the vessels to operate in a destructive manner. The Government itself is part of the problem because it actually prevents operators from doing the right thing.

Those Yachts

Tortolla Marine Management, known as TMM, is one of these foreign companies which rent out catamarans to people who are unfamiliar with our waters, The Moorings, based in Placencia, is another such company.

The raw sewerage that these chartered yachts dump on or near the reef is a cause for alarm. Due to their undersised on-board septic tanks these yachts dump their sewer anywhere that's convenient., and that includes the reef area and eco-sensitive Placencia Lagoon.

Part of the problem arises from the fact that these leasing companies do not have shoreside facilities to receive the sewer. If the vessels do not dump all of its waste at sea, what remains must be pumped out after the vessel returns to base near the shore.

That Sewage

This is not the fault of the operators. The major part of the blame must rest with the government, which is content to let matters ride.

The Moorings, the Placencia-based yacht-rental company, offered to build a shoreside facility to receive the raw sewerage. The government would not allow it, announcing it would provide the facility. But it has done nothing at all in the face of mounting contamination.

Now the infection from the sewerage has spread, polluting not only the Placencia Lagoon, but the offshore waters as well. If anybody doubts the terrible damage these cruise vessels can cause and are causing, he or she should take a trip to Key West, Florida to see if they can find any living coral there.

There is none! All the beautiful coral which flourished in the area of Key West has been killed off by vessels operating like they do in Belize. Belize is lucky to be blessed with a beautiful expanse of sea and many inland waterways and lagoons stocked with an abundance of fish and other marine life.

Baron Edward Henry Bliss came and saw and was enthralled.

He was so pleased with Belize he left us his fortune, or what was left of it after England levied its death taxes on his estate. But in recent times the pollution has become so bad even the fish have become scarce.

Apart from taking over the cruiseship trade which used to be handled by smaller boats, the big catamarans also carry tourists to the cayes. These large passenger-carrying catamarans also dump their sewage at sea because there is no place else to throw it.

Yet the government has gone on-year in year out ignoring this growing problem that is so deadly to coral.

Mangrove Protection

To make matters worse the government has allowed more and more people to clear away the protective mangrove which helps to filter out impurities and protect junior marine life.

Placencia Lagoon was once fenced in by a protective barrier of mangrove. Everybody knows it is the spawning and nursery grounds for a great multitude of fish and other marine life.

When marine life matures, it migrates to the big city - the deeper waters of the Barrier Reef.

But when mangrove is cut down it leaves the land and the coastal waters exposed. It makes it easy for larger predators to come in close to shore and ravage the junior marine life.

It also makes it harder for micro-organisms to break down sewer and other man-made pollutants.

Recently divers operating in or near Placencia were unpleasantly surprised to find a mysterious rash breaking out all over their face and body.

They don't know what it is. But I can tell because I have seen it before. It's caused by pollution due to raw sewage.

Those Trawlers

The Government continues to allow shrimp trawlers to operate in or near coastal waters. The trawlers rake the sea bed with a heavy chain that ploughs the bottom, digging up great clouds of sediment which stifle and kill off coral life.

Trawlers tear up the sea bed, spawning grounds and nurseries with equal unconcern. For every ton of commercial fish they take, trawlers leave behind two or more tons of dying marine life which are essential links in the food chain. Trawlers each year needlessly kill off marine life by the thousands of tons.

Belize's beaches down south are among some of the finest in the world. But they are being threatened in a sinister way.

Everybody knows beaches are formed by sand which is brought down by rivers and deposited on the coast. When rivers are in flood they bring down tons and tons of sand which in time forms a beach.

Save our Beaches

But beaches are dynamic! They grow and they shrink. The sea pounds and pulls at it. The currents and the rain sweep the sand away and occasionally storms will batter a beach so hard it disappears for a time.

But the rivers and the occasional floods patch the beach and even though there is constant wear and tear, beaches renew themselves and remain for generations a delightful place of beauty and serenity.

Before a dam was erected at Monkey River there was a beautiful and impressive beach along the coast. But construction of a dam on the river has blocked the flow of water, reducing the migration of sand and denuding the beach.

Go check it out! The results are there for all to see! .

Today the government has approved and authorised the construction of the Chalillo Dam. This additional dam higher up in the mountains will slow the flow of the river and it will prevent the sand from coming down to renew beaches south of Belize City.

Save our Inheritance

It is a deplorable development, but our Government just doesn't seem to care anymore about what happens to Belize. They don't give a damn so long as they and their families and friends can live high off the hog.

This "come-do-me" attitude towards investors with money greatly benefits those who dump the sewage and cut the mangrove and dam the rivers.

Belize is the only inheritance we have to hand down to our children. But the people we elected to protect us are selling out our inheritance.

They are bringing about the decline of a good and beautiful country. They are turning their backs on long-term development in favour of short-term gain for themselves.

They won't be satisfied until everything is gone -- all the beauty and magnificence of our landscape and seascape -- all that once made Belize the Jewel of the Caribbean.

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Reply Sat 30 Jul, 2005 05:32 pm
sumac, greed and lack of vision isn't new, but the amount of destruction sanctioned by governments throughout the world is...

Military sonar blasts, bottom trawling, wildlife destruction <to counteract the stupidity of overfishing> illegal rainforest logging, and laws either discounted or ignored out of fear of reprisals from the very people that are supposed to be inforcing the law - epidemic.

Energy companies creating more smog and spewing billions of tons of toxins into the atmosphere, respiratory illness on the rise <children and the elderly> auto manufacturers no longer required to build energy efficient products...and the band plays on.

Now, the world has CAFTA, thanks to the unenlightened, giving profits to the wealthy and allowing developing countries the priviledge of rotting in sub human work shops for WalMart.

Enviornmental News From The Pacific Northwest...Salmon and Steelhead

Whether a fisherman, a citizen that supports the protection
of wildlife, or an advocate for endangered species- are part of
a growing network of people that recognize wild salmon and
steelhead as a vital part of our economy, Pacific Northwest
culture, and an inseparable part of America's natural heritage.

Wild salmon and steelhead have enjoyed some critical victories
in 2005. While we have yet to secure a truly effective recovery
plan that restores Pacific salmon and steelhead to
self-sustaining, healthy populations, federal courts and
citizens like you, have sent a strong message to our elected
decision makers, and agencies responsible for salmon recovery
that the federal salmon plan is inadequate. Extinction is

Here is what has happened just in the last four months:

I. Federal Salmon Plan rejected...again
II. Court orders protections
III. Government appeals - and loses
IV. Salmon Planning Act Hits the Ground Running in 109th
V. Salmon science center victim of political agenda
VI. Dedicated salmon advocates summit Mt. Rainier to support
wild salmon recovery

Federal Salmon Plan rejected...again: In May, a federal court in
Oregon rejected - for the third time - the federal government's
newest plan for Snake and Columbia river wild salmon and
steelhead. Released in late 2004, fishing businesses and
conservation organizations had no choice but to fight the
devastating plan in court. It would have cost U.S. taxpayers $6
billion dollars over ten years, abandoned salmon recovery and
west coast fishing communities, and actually allowed imperiled
runs to go extinct. That is NOT a recovery plan!
Read Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition's May Press Statement-

Court orders protections: After the plan was rejected, salmon
and fishing advocates then asked the judge to ensure that fish
migrating through the river this summer are adequately protected
from the harmful impacts of dams. And the judge agreed - he
ordered federal agencies to protect young fish migrating past
the dams to the ocean by "spilling" water over the dams, rather
than running it all through the turbines. "Spill" carries fish
over the dams alive, and thus they avoid getting killed by going
through the dams' spinning turbines.

Government appeals - and loses: The Bush Administration appealed
the court's requirement to "spill" water, and on Tuesday, July
26, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in
support of the lower court - and salmon recovery. The "spill"
will continue through the end of summer - and this year many
more young salmon will migrate to the ocean alive and well.

What's next for salmon recovery? Later this summer, the judge is
requesting all parties to the litigation - federal agencies,
conservation organizations, fishing businesses, and Indian
Tribes - to meet and begin a collaborative process to craft a
long-term recovery strategy. Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition will
continue to advocate strongly for a science-based approach that
includes removing the four dams on the lower Snake River as a
cornerstone for recovery.
Read more- http://ga0.org/ct/cpAp1F518Xh0/About-SOS-Webpage/

Salmon Planning Act Hits the Ground Running in 109th Congress

Pro-fish. Good for business. Taxpayer-friendly. Bi-partisan.
Chock-full of common sense. These are just some of the words
used to praise the Salmon Planning Act (HR 1615), which, as
faithful readers of Wild Salmon and Steelhead News may recall,
was reintroduced in the 109th Congress on April 13 by lead
sponsors Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA).
Since then, the Salmon Planning Act (or SPA) has garnered the
support of 56 additional members of Congress from around the
country and both sides of the aisle. Of these co-sponsors, five
are brand new supporters of SPA: Reps. Cummings (D-MD), Green
(R-WI), Lipinski (D-IL), McCotter (R-MI), and Menendez (D-NJ).

SPA is designed to help Congress collect the best possible
information on Columbia-Snake salmon recovery, thereby laying
the groundwork for thoughtful consideration of the role of dam
removal in bringing wild salmon and steelhead back to the
Pacific salmon states. To this end, the bill would initiate a
series of studies that explore the costs and benefits associated
with effective salmon and steelhead recovery, including ways to
ensure that local communities are kept economically whole should
removal of the four lower Snake River dams be deemed necessary
in order to comply with federal laws and treaties. While SPA
would not result in dam removal (a separate act of Congress
would be required to authorize and fund such a project), it
would place this option on a level playing field alongside other
recovery measures, and allow federal agencies to plan ahead if
dam removal emerges as the most scientifically viable and
economically feasible alternative.

The 109th Congress marks the third time SPA has been introduced,
but it may also be the most critical opportunity to move forward
on this important legislation. As other articles in this issue
of Wild Salmon and Steelhead News point out, Columbia-Snake
salmon recovery stands at a crossroads; the recent court
decision invalidating the Federal Salmon Plan gives agencies a
chance to return to the drawing board and develop a plan that
actually works - for salmon, for communities, for regional
economies, and for the nation. SPA can help bolster this effort
while giving Congress the information it needs to make the
best-informed decisions about recovering these invaluable fish.

Remember, the administration doesn't appreciate science that condradicts their agenda - Fish farms and Monsanto Frankenseed.
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