Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Where have all the fish gone?


"Just don't go to the mall. Bush told us to win the war by going shopping. But if we want to really win the war about the economy, don't go shopping, and don't buy all the crap that sits in your cupboard and you never use. So, we can't [just] unscrew a lightbulb. We have to fix everything at the same time now. We have to stop overfishing, we have to stop pollution. We have to stop climate changing. When people ask me, 'what's the biggest problem: fishing, climate change or pollution?', I say 'yes' because it's all of it. And this requires fundamental changes in the way we fish, the way we raise our food, the way we produce our products and the way we get our energy for everything we do. And that's scary."

- Jeremy Jackson, Ritter Professor of Oceanography and Director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Today is world oceans day, so I thought I would share this thoroughly depressing lecture. If you'd like to sleep tonight, might be better to skip it. I am not sure why the slides are blurred (I assume some kind of copyright issue). It's a shame, but you can still make most of them out. A couple of pithy quotes worth taking down:
"Ninety-five percent of what passes for conservation biology is the ever more sophisticated refinement of the obituary of nature, rather than doing something about it."

"What is farmed salmon? We're raising cows to feed to tigers, to eat tiger burgers. That's what salmon is. It's an apex predator. We go out and we drag the oceans and we get all this trash fish which we turn into forty percent protein pellets to feed to the salmon."
While we're on memorable quotes about the ocean, here are two from a fascinating documentary on overfishing called End of the Line, which I've been intending to blog about it for some time. The two money quotes are “We are fighting a war against the fish - and we are winning!” and “People always ask me - where have all the fish gone? and I tell them, we have eaten them!” Here is the trailer.

And while I'm compiling a somewhat random collection of things related to ocean ecology, here are three more links:

Acidification: why small numbers matter. A change of pH of 0.1 might seem small, but if it occurred in your bloodstream, it would be sufficient to make you quite sick.

• FAO: Fish consumption reaches all time high.

• Science Daily: Ocean acidification will reduce diversity.

Happy World Oceans Day!

20 comments:

Kairos Uniting Church said...

Hi Byron

I preached on the plight of the oceans last year. I have posted the end of my sermon to my blog with a reference to your latest post. Thanks Peter Lockhart
http://kairosuc.blogspot.com/2011/06/care-for-creation.html

Matheson said...

I assume you saw this visualization of the loss of fish stocks? A picture tells a thousand words. (In this case pretty grim words.)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/jun/03/fish-stocks-information-beautiful

byron smith said...

Peter - Thanks for the link. Sounds like it would have been an interesting sermon. Do you have plans to post the rest of it?

Matheson - I hadn't seen that. Jaw-dropping. The point about shifting baselines is a very important one. I've just started thinking about it. It is possible that the present fecundity of the earth will become unthinkable in future generations, who may end up arguing about whether or not there really were 7+ billion people on the planet, since its carrying capacity will have been so much reduced.

byron smith said...

It's also worth noting that stocks were already declining in the Irish sea and west coast of Scotland (and perhaps elsewhere, though I'm less familiar with them) by 1900.

Kairos Uniting Church said...

Hi Byron

I put the rest of the sermon up. Regards Peter http://kairosuc.blogspot.com/2011/06/psalm-8-dominion-over-sea.html

Andrew said...

Australians conserving a third of the Great Barrier Reef "under a Prime Minister that made Bush look like a liberal..."

That's gold.

Byron Smith said...

Guardian: Shocking state of oceans reported by first conference on cumulative effects of major threats to the oceans:

"The international panel of marine experts said there was a "high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history". They said the challenges facing the oceans created "the conditions associated with every previous major extinction of species in Earth's history"."

byron smith said...

Information is Beautiful: Which fish are good to eat.

byron smith said...

PS Peter - thanks for posting the rest of it.

byron smith said...

NEF: EU has discarded £2.7b worth of cod (2.1 million tonnes) between 1963 and 2008.

byron smith said...

(And that's just the cod discards...)

byron smith said...

Eutrophication background from very knowledgeable Guardian regular commenter (SteB1). I've never found a comment from this individual which hasn't been on the money.

byron smith said...

New Scientist: Canadian cod comeback. Fishing bans work - eventually.

byron smith said...

Monbiot: EU and fish quotas: who will protect these fish from our feeding frenzy?

byron smith said...

Michael Conathan: The oceans have an image problem.

byron smith said...

The Conversation: The real cost of taking fish out of the water. This is one of the best brief guides to overfishing I've seen and includes some useful links, such as the Australian sustainable fishing guide Good Fish Bad Fish.

byron smith said...

Guardian: Total human impact on global oceans mapped. About 40% have been heavily affected.

byron smith said...

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg: Australian waters in a +4ºC world, pdf of slides from a lecture at a recent conference.

byron smith said...

Stephen Leahy: Oceans are becoming hot, sour and breathless. A nice phrase summarising three threats associated with rising atmospheric CO2 levels.

byron smith said...

Guardian: Scottish fish farms face super-lice. Evolution in action once more.