We Need a New Approach for Saving the Oceans!
By David Wills
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
U.N. Features “Texas Farm Girl” Aquaculture Book
“Texas Farm Girl: Aquaculture Farming” is now for sale at the United Nation’s bookstore at its New York headquarters. The one-of-a-kind children’s book features Global Blue Technologies unique approach to bio-secure, recirculating aquaculture system.
Rebecca Crownover, executive director of the International Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources (IFCNR) and Chairman of Board of Directors of Mari Signum Ltd. attended “The Oceans Conference” at the UN complex June 5-9th. The Oceans Conference is a gathering of world delegates focused on the conservation and sustainable development of the oceans, seas, and marine resources.
While at the UN conference, Ms. Crownover introduced the latest edition of the Texas Farm Girl children’s book series to world experts concerned with the conservation and sustainability of all aspects of the planet’s oceans. Among them are the Hon. Jose Maria Figueres, former President of Costa Rica; key policy officials from Iceland, Senegal, and Curacao; as well as one of the most celebrated young marine scientists Grace Young.
The UN bookstore staff seized on the fact that Ms. Crownover’s book is not only the first but also the only book aimed at educating very young children about the existence and importance of aquaculture. “Texas Farm Girl: Aquaculture Farming” is now a featured offering on the store’s shelves.