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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Time is Running Out - A Sad Saga of Fisheries Mis-Management

While the Federal Fisheries Minister, DFO, NAFO and even the Provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador continue to battle with one another, ignore problems that can and should be rectified and pay lip service to a fishery on the verge of total disaster time is running out.

Climate change and the quest for an international solution to the prolem is a topic that's on the lips of every political figure, news editor, university student and individual citizen world wide. It's an issue that's been raised to the highest levels of power for discussion and negotiation around the world yet there is another environmental disaster playing itself out on the world stage with barely a dying gasp to be heard from anyone.

The collapse of world wide fish populations began decades ago and, if left unresolved, may well lead to the compete destruction of the planet's largest ecosystem and the disappearance it's most valuable food resource, yet this issue is not being addressed in any meaningful way, especially not in Canada.

The following contains excerpts from the article - Overfishing: Are there really plenty of fish in the sea? – published on the Mother Nature Network. For anyone not aware of just how precarious the situation has become this may be an eye opener. I sincerely hope it is.

The time to sit by and let the powers that be continue to trade away our planet's future is over. If something isn't done soon to protect fish species it may be too late to save the last lonely fish in the sea.

Read on:

Years before an economic crisis taught everyone the risks of runaway growth, marine fishermen and fishery managers were already getting a crash course.

Worldwide fishing catches grew 400 percent between 1950 and 1994, following centuries of increasingly intensive commercial fishing, but it couldn't last forever — big fisheries began crashing by the late 20th century…

Fisheries and financial markets have a lot in common, according to a study published last month, and both can collapse dramatically after reaching certain tipping points. While such tipping points are difficult to predict, there are still clues beforehand. Stock markets often behave erratically when a meltdown is coming, the researchers found, and fisheries may undergo odd fluctuations in population and body size before they crash.

Bouncing back from a collapse is also no easier for some fish than it is for financial systems. When Newfoundland's cod fishery collapsed in 1992 and Canada closed it for rehabilitation, many expected a quick recovery since cod reproduce so prolifically. But something went wrong, and Newfoundland cod still haven't returned to their pre-collapse numbers, despite a decade-long moratorium on fishing that was upgraded to outright closure in 2003.

Web Talk Note: There's the official position and then there's the actual truth.

Although the cod fishery was "officially" closed on 2003 large volumes of cod are still caught every year off the Newfoundland and Labrador coast. This often happens as a result of by-catch when seeking other species, through scientific “sampling”, becaue of pseudo-fisheries activities like fishing for the black back flounder (a species for which there is no real market. The quota for this species is primarily issued by DFO as a ruse to enable some harvesters access to a cod by catch) and through fishing on the nose & tail of the Grand Banks / Flemish Cap (a breeding ground for young cod and clearly for illegal foreign fisheries activities).

In 2006, Canadian marine ecologist Boris Worm predicted that all commercial fisheries will collapse by 2048 if overfishing isn't stopped. Although he scaled back that forecast this year after taking into account some nations' recent sustainability efforts, he and an international team of researchers still warned that 63 percent of fish stocks are dangerously low, with many still sinking.

People have been eating fish since at least the Stone Age, when anglers used handmade tools to hunt along streams, rivers and coastlines. The art of fishing has evolved with human culture ever since, but about 1,000 years ago, humans started getting a little too good at fishing. New ships, equipment and techniques let them focus on large, dense populations of marine fish, and the first commercial fishing fleets shipped out from Northern Europe around 950 A.D., sparking a revolution in the way people caught, ate and even thought about fish.

That revolution gradually spread around the world — early European colonists arriving in Newfoundland, for example, reported clusters of cod so thick that ships struggled to get through. These were developed into large-scale fisheries by the 1800s, and about 200 years and countless fish sticks later, the Newfoundland cod fishery collapsed. By 2003, nearly a third of all commercial fisheries on Earth had, too.

Overfishing may also interfere with evolution. By targeting big fish for harvest and throwing back or ignoring small ones, some scientists believe humans are artificially selecting for fish with small bodies — since diminutive fish are more likely to survive and therefore reproduce more often, they also pass on more genes than their bigger, meatier relatives. Markets reportedly sold cod 100 years ago that measured nearly five feet long, but the largest cod today are around 20 inches.

And because collapsed fisheries have only a fraction of their former populations, genetic diversity may suffer as well. In addition to the problem of inbreeding, it takes less time for a single genetic trait to spread widely throughout a small population, meaning overharvested fisheries can become populated with little fish in a little gene pool.


Anonymous said...

Another good one patriot. Something needs to be done and fast. I can't believe people still think cod isn't being caught in the north atlantic. Just the official quotas, bycatch,etc. account for about 17,500 tons of cod each year and that's just the official numbers. How much more is never reported, under reported, caught outright illegally or by boats from overseas that nobody knows about. I'm betting the real number is at least 3-5 times the official one.

If you average it out at about 5 lbs per cod (knowing how small they are these days) even the official numbers show annual catches of over 7 million fish just in the NL region alone. The real numbers would be even more frightening.

Anonymous said...


Hey Patriot I wouldn’t ask but ,……………………….could you stick this up at Web Talk or let those you know , have a peek at the following URL ???

Every person that we can tell this about can only lead to more help from other people .Maybe a starting point for Canada to know the truth about our fishery .And what really happened to our Nation???

People can email www. http://www.wwf.ca/ and ask for themselves what as happened to the Atlantic Cod fishery.

Patriot said...

Hi Anon 2:54,

I've posted your comment here for anyone who wants to visit the WWF site and get information from them. The WWF is one of the more reasonable of this sort of organization which is why I've posted it but I can't see myself putting it on the main Web Talk page since this is a site seeking donations and while they've done some work in the area I don't see a lot of effort on their part to actually protect cod (at least not enough to warrant the donations they likely get).