Jan 1, 1970

We Need a New Approach to Saving the Oceans!

May 12, 2017

We Need a New Approach for Saving the Oceans!

Daily, among a myriad of activities we hope and believe will make a real difference to the earth and our neighbors around us, we constantly review hundreds of stories and reports offering conflicting and even contradictory versions of the state of fish and other marine stocks in our oceans.

We read articles on the effects of pollution and global warming on coral reefs and marine species’ habitats. We read about destructive practices including but not limited to bottom trawling; efforts to stop illegal, unregistered, and unreported fishing; and reports on the millions of pounds of wasted by-catch as well as intentionally falsified take documentation.

We monitor the deteriorating state of the world’s oceans and the plummeting statistics on wild fish stocks. Then with total amazement watch spin doctors of both industry and its opponents pronounce claims of robust catch numbers as they lobby for continued maximum harvest quotas while at the same time the complete opposite about the same stocks are decried by the other side of the issue. The back and forth would be laughable and reminiscent of the parable of the fox guarding the hen house if the real state of the oceans was not so tragic.

With no universal observer mechanism on the ships trolling the oceans for the various capture fisheries, governments and scientists and academia must rely on the “catch numbers” reported by the individual captains whose livelihoods depend on maximizing their catch against increasing operating costs.

As a small aside, “maximum sustained yield” (MSY) the mantra for fisheries management, was a practice developed in the 1930’s by the US Forest Service. It may work for trees because they stand still and are easy to count, but it definitely is not a practice that can be easily applied to or work as well for enormous amounts of biomasses of living, moving, animals.

In fact it is such a narrowly focused management methodology that the 20th Century’s most respected expert in marine fishery dynamics, the late Peter Anthony Larkin, wrote the MSY epitaph in 1977, four decades ago.

Larkin condemned Maximum Sustained Yield because it put marine species at too much risk. It left out too many relevant factors and left management decisions too vulnerable to political pressure to be accurate or objective. Its myopic view is weighted towards “benefits” (to the fishery) while at the same time ignoring relevant negative factors. It strives to impose a constant harvest rate without taking into account each species’ natural biological and environmental fluctuations.

In short, MSY is probably not the way to try and ascertain accurate population counts of global fisheries whose health and abundance depend on an integrated management approach.

Plato observed that human beings are motivated by four things: fear, empathy, altruism, and self-interest.

And the strongest of the four are fear and self-interest.

It does not take a scholar to see that if one’s living; one’s economy; and thus one’s well being depend on a species of fish, then it is in the “reporting” person’s self-interest to make sure the “facts” being reported concerning the population of that species are positive. Similarly, is it so incomprehensible that the very thought of a catch restriction or, heaven forbid, the closing of that species’ fishery just might generate a wave of debilitating fear?

That same self-interested bias is endemic in the respective marine industries. Unfortunately the actions they take to generate profits are also the actions that generate pollution, contribute to the warming of the oceans, and, quite literally, to nearly all of the problems plaguing the oceans.

So the bottom line: we need a new view and a new approach toward protecting our oceans.

What is in place is not working. It is not worth debating; it is simply not working.

Two years ago a very bright and accomplished young woman, Grace C. Young, wrote a very inspirational article entitled “How to Save Our Sick, Neglected Oceans.” It’s in the blog archives of her very thoughtful website (www.graceunderthesea.com) or accessed from TIME magazine at http://time.com/4029379/cern-for-the-oceans/

Take a moment and read it. Her vision is spot on.

We need a new approach to saving the oceans and in doing so maybe saving ourselves.

Maybe Grace’s reflections past and present are a good place to start.


Notes from the UN Oceans Conference

Jun 9, 2017

Notes from the UN Oceans Conference
June 5-9

The week long Conference on the Oceans at the United Nations New York City venue focused on the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14: the worldwide effort to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

IFCNR was there.

Day 1:

Opening ceremonies included the “Kava Ceremony,” a traditional Fijian welcome, and a Life on Earth video on the ocean, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, outlining the benefits, threats, and opportunities of the oceans. Visiting heads of state underscored the importance of viewing the Conference as a “game changer” in terms of tackling issues considered vital to the life of the oceans: illegal and unregulated fishing and marine pollution.

Side Events:

Seven panel discussions were on the agenda. Topics included marine pollution; small island states; the relationship of multiple Sustainable Development Goals with SDG 14; the importance to SDG 14 of action by Asian-Pacific women; Ocean health; science influence on national action plans; and small island states involvement in the Blue Economy.

Delegates agreed the source of pollution must be identified and action must be taken on plastics and microplastics, litter and ship-caused pollution. Tuna traceability is another important issue. Also the European Investment Bank (EIB) has earmarked USD 100 million in loans to the Caribbean until 2020. EIB invests USD 2.5 billion in blue economy initiatives yearly.

The interrelation among SDGs was addressed specifically SDG 1 (poverty), 2 (hunger), 3 (health), 4 (education), 7 (energy), 8 (economic growth), 11 (cities), 12 (sustainable consumption and production), and 15 (biodiversity).

The discussion led to the importance of ocean health and the threat of erosion to the 220 million humans inhabiting the world’s coastlines. Delegates stressed the importance of accurate data on the oceans.

Unsustainable fisheries and plastic accumulation plus the importance of sharing scientific data were discussed.

Day 2: Issues discussed at the plenary session looked at pollution in terms of plastics; untreated waste water; marine sanctuaries; protection of sea turtles, whales and sharks; law enforcement against offenders; implementation of national blue economy plans; and efforts to improve the livelihood of marine-dependent communities.

Day 3

Wide ranging discussions occurred on the importance of implementing ethical approach in dealing with environmental management and concern for vulnerable populations. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; sustainable fishing; pollution mitigation particularly related to Styrofoam and plastics; market access for small artisanal fisheries; oil pollution; and cooperative efforts to implement sustainable ocean economies particularly for small fisheries.

Final Day:

World Oceans Day (June 8th) was held up as a celebration of the collective dream of healthy and productive oceans. Our oceans make Earth unique among planets in the solar system.

Plenary debate continued to range over multiple topics: proper management of marine protected areas; cleanup and prevention of oil spills; taking action against 80 million tons of plastics dumped in the oceans yearly; as well as a review of all topics discussed over the course of the Conference.


One Conservative Conservationist’s Point of View: Who Cares for Domestic Water

Jun 2, 2017

One Conservative Conservationist’s Point of View: Who Cares for Domestic Water

Dr. Timothy Aberson

I’m a conservationist and a conservative. The thumbnail sketch of my background is simple. I grew up an Iowa farm boy. To this day, I remain one at heart. So I must confess that President Trump’s decision to roll back his predecessor’s order placing all “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under control of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers left me in a state of considerable mixed emotions. Emotions that are entirely my own. They do not represent the position of this Foundation.

The idea of removing a federal agency, much less two, from control of local rivers, tributaries and wetlands cheered my conservative side as well as my neighbors who farm. My conservationist side, however, was and is troubled. Perhaps not as deeply as my more liberal colleagues in the environmental movement but troubled nonetheless. Who should have oversight and authority to see that we, as a nation, do the right thing for our domestic waterways?

I’ve not been able to shake the idea that this in someway is a reprise of the key issue state or local rights in relation to that of the Federal Government that led to the Civil War? In my opinion, Federal versus state and local control over environmental affairs near home was, is and will remain a hot button issue for the foreseeable future.

No one disputes the importance of clean, pollution free water. Not environmentalists, federal and state elected officials and bureaucrats, farmers, developers, or voters of liberal or conservative bias. No one denies shortsighted farming techniques contribute to the demise of rivers and tributaries as well as offshore dead zones due to topsoil, fertilizer, pesticide and herbicide run off. On the other hand, federal engineering attempts to “improve” upon Nature can and have resulted in unintended disasters. I point to the “straightening” of the lower part of the once twisting and turning Mississippi River. Safe havens for aquatic life such as shrimp to mature and grow in wetland sanctuaries are forever lost.

Closer to my home, Iowa’s Floyd River is another prime example of a problem with no simple solution. A generation ago, its water ran see-through clear from surface to the bottom. Walleye and other coveted game fish flourished. Life in the river was abundant. Today, the Floyd is as muddy as the Mississippi. What fish remain, residents are loath to eat. Who’s at fault? Who can provide a remedy? Should we trust our neighbors or the EPA? What use restrictions must we be forced to live with if we choose the latter.

Farmers who insist on taking out fencerows and trees near water’s edge and who plow every inch of ground contribute mightily to the problem. Others who understand the importance of joining farming and conservation measures such as natural bio-filters, no-till farming, the use of cover crops, buffer strips and more insist they are the proper source for the remedy.

The conservative view traditionally is grounded in the principles that individuals and governments at any level must avoid spending more than income and that no citizen or community should ever yield individual responsibility to government. There is truth in the fear that individuals and local governments have neither the resources nor the wherewithal to do the right thing to avoid degrading Nature’s lands or waters. There is also truth in the belief that a “one-size-fits-all” bureaucratic solution, particularly one influenced by backroom influence peddling, is no solution at all.

From a conservative conservationist’s point of view the President’s intervention in the question of who determines how best to care for WOTUS presents an opportunity for cooperative action between federal and local stakeholders. I truly believe to achieve real and lasting improvement of our waters we must engage in an effort of shared responsibility or as we say in the investment industry, everyone must have skin in the game to make it work.



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