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.


Wetland Biofilter in Iowa

Aug 22, 2017

At a time when the Gulf of Mexico "Dead Zone" is at an historic expanse the size of the State of New Jersey, IFCNR is greatly appreciative of the collective community effort in Iowa to curb the cause of this environmental disaster.  Of particular note is the use of Nature and its curative properties described in the article reproduced below. 

Wetland project aims to reduce nutrient flow to Des Moines
Katelyn Weisbrod | August 15, 2017

Storm Lake, Iowa has completed a project to improve its water quality. Eight more projects are in the works to continue this effort. Storm Lake, in Buena Vista County, was one of several communities involved in the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit in January. The water utility attempted to sue Buena Vista county and two other northern Iowa counties for allowing nitrate pollution in the water, which flows downstream to the Des Moines area. The Iowa Supreme Court did not side with the water utility, but the lawsuit brought attention to the issue, and Storm Lake is addressing it.

In May, the community constructed a $175,000 wetland, and last week, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg joined Storm Lake leaders in celebrating the step towards healthier water.

“Storm Lake has been very active over the past several years in working with storm water to improve water quality and to slow down the flow to reduce flooding in our neighborhoods, as well as reduce the nutrient loading that’s in the water,” Jon Kruse, mayor of Storm Lake, said to KWWL.

The wetland naturally removes nutrients from the water, reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous flowing down the Raccoon River to Des Moines, and to the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico. Nutrient removal from water can be complicated, and high levels of nutrients can cause algal blooms in water bodies, leading to low oxygen levels which are dangerous for aquatic life. Storm Lake has also had issues with flooding in the past, and this wetland should help reduce that.

IFCNR applauds these and similar efforts to provide sound, practical solutions to the ever-growing problems facing our rivers, streams and oceans.


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.




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