Monthly Archives: December 2010

Water, Water Everywhere But Not a Fish in Sight!

A couple of fishing boats in the harbour near Kovalam Beach, Kerala, India

 

“Humans have always been very good at killing big animals. Ten thousand years ago, with just some pointed sticks, humans managed to wipe out the woolly mammoths, saber tooth tigers, mastodons and giant vampire bats. The same is now happening in the seas.” So said the late Ransom A. Myers, Fisheries Biologist and Head of the Future of the Marine Animals Populations Project.

Enjoy your Christmas prawns/shrimp, your lobster tail, oysters, caviar and other assorted sea delicacies my friends, because such lavish knees up will soon be just a memory. In fact, results from the 2010 Marine Census indicate that if current fishing trends continue, commercial fisheries will have collapsed by 2050.

If you haven’t already twigged to the fact that seafood prices are through the roof and wondered why, then you might be interested to know that we are fishing sea life out of existance.

Yes, of course, seafood was just invented so that humans can eat heaps and heaps of delicious sea thingies at buffets and weddings, that’s why it’s called seaFOOD. Annually, millions of tonnes of seaFOOD is fished out of the ocean for us lucky humans.

Unfortunately we seem to have so many parties that we’ve fished out all the seaFOOD near the shore and now the boats have to go further and further out into the ocean. What a pest.

Although we don’t give two hoots, there are some other annoying animals and bigger sea creatures who also like seaFOOD. In fact, it’s often their only food. And they’re currently starving because unlike our boats, they can’t go right out to sea on the continual search for seaFOOD. A bear prefers land and likes to catch their salmon as it jumps upstream to reproduce.  Penguins also like to fish close to shore. The further they travel, the greater the likelihood of their being gulped up by a hungry seal.

And of course, we clean forgot that if we overfish all the seaFOOD, there’ll be no seaFOOD parents left to make seaFOOD babies so there is more seaFOOD for our next Christmas knees up. The orange roughy can attest to this. With a life span of 150 years (if not eaten by something), they begin their reproductive life at the age of twenty five. We began commercial fishing of orange roughy just ten years ago and they are already endangered. I mean, it’s just ridiculous that they take so long to begin reproducing and we can’t wait that long. So we’re eating them all before they get a chance to reproduce. It would be the lucky one that gets to live to twenty five neverlone 150! Fat chance of that!

Other seacreatures are in serious decline. 90% of populations of top predators – tuna, shark and swordfish – have been caught and the repercussions are serious. There has been a decline of  87% of sandbar sharks, 93% of blacktip sharks, 97% of tiger sharks, 98% of scalloped hammerheads and 99% of bull and smooth hammerheads since 1972, according to a survey by the University of North Carolina. Sharks are prized by the Chinese for their fins which are hacked off while the shark is still alive and the finless shark is then tossed back into the ocean to die. It is estimated that 50 million sharks also die annually due to accidental entanglement in fishing nets.

So how does this impact other marine life?

Well, sharks are top predators of sting rays. Now that sharks are becoming extinct there is a population explosion amongst sting rays. Spotted eagle rays have become increasingly common off Hawaii. Populations of long headed eagle rays are exploding in Japan’s Ariake Sound and cownose rays in Chesapeake Bay. Sharks are the natural predator of sting rays and have hitherto kept their numbers in check. However, now that sharks are virtually extinct, sting ray numbers are exploding and numbers of shellfish are plunging proportionally. Sting rays love to eat softshell and hard clams, oysters and scallops. In fact, the longheaded eagle rays in Ariake Sound are decimating several shellfish species a year. In Chesapeake Bay the rays are gobbling down 925,000 tons of hard clams and oysters. Now that will put a dent in your Christmas platters!

And who can we blame for that? Well we killed the sharks and are still doing so, without a thought for biodiversity. We hate to hear about anything that might try to stop us catching and eating anything that takes our fancy. And boy, do we hate anything else that tries to steal OUR seaFOOD off us! Fishermen happily kill seals who dare to eat their seaFOOD.

So in Russia bears who normally rely on salmon catches  to bulk up for winter, are starving and resorting to attacking miners for food because illegal salmon fishing has stolen their food. The same scenario is being played out all over the world. Seals, penguins etc are having to fish further out at sea because commercial fishermen have fished out the waters close to shore. Recent attacks on humans by sharks in Egypt have been largely blamed on overfishing. When we steal other predator’s food then they turn on us – it seems a fair and logical conclusion.

In fact, such is the dire state of the world’s oceans that there are more than 400 dead zones around the world. The dead zones contain nothing other than jellyfish. One such dead zone exists off the coast of Namibia. Their fish have all been fished out by fishermen. Spadefish, sunfish and loggerhead turtles which eat jellyfish have all been fished out and hence jellyfish which are otherwise known as the cockroaches of the sea, are now thriving around Australia, Britain, Hawaii, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, the Sea of Japan and China’s Yangtze Estuary.

Half the coral reefs in the Carribean and one quarter of all the reefs around the world are dead due to pollution, physical destruction and increased temperatures. Increased CO2 takeup in the ocean has increased acidity which causes lower saturation states of the carbonate minerals used to form skeletal material.

So unless you have a plan to save the world’s seaFOOD, then you’d best eat up now as it will soon be just a memory.

Have a look at https://roslynmotter.com/2010/11/05/be-quick-to-see-the-seahorse.

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Australia’s New Native Animals – Cane Toads, Cows and Sheep

I have just read a sad story about how five endangered Sumatran elephants have been killed by villagers because they most likely damaged their crops.

http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/five-dead-elephants-believed-poisoned/story-e6frfku0-1225962327660

It’s the same old story. The elephants’ habitat has now been chopped down so there’s nothing for them to eat. So they eat the villagers’ crops. The villagers get angry. They retaliate. They kill the culprits. Five endangered elephants are now dead.

Wild and native animals are now the enemies of mankind. We don’t want them. There’s no place for them in our lives except as zoo exhibits, or as in the case of the kangaroo – on our dinner plate. 

My friend Julia was driving up on the highway near Byron Bay on Friday night and she noticed a baby koala trying to cross the highway.  She jumped out and helped it cross (nearly getting herself run over by semi trailers in the process).  When it got to the other side it was so stressed out it immediately tried to go back the way it had come. She had no option but to grab it and take it to the police station where it was to be handed over to WIRES (Wildlife Information and Rescue Service) officers.

The reason for this catastrophe is that all over Australia we build double lane major highways through koala habitats. I have seen squashed koalas in Victoria where the Hume Highway goes right through koala homeland.  It’s really quite disgraceful.

Have a read of what I have already written about the way we treat our iconic koala https://roslynmotter.com/2010/03/11/pity-about-the-australian-koala/

As for kangaroos, they are now just considered pests and lean meat. We are being encouraged to overcome the childhood obesity epidemic by eating kangaroos. No mention of giving up junk food or exercising – just eat kangaroo meat! When I was a child, no one ate kangaroo meat but we were all thin and active.

A recent discussion on this very subject at the University of Technology, advertised it as follows –

 

UTSpeaks: Killing Skippy
Will kangaroos survive being seen as lean, tender meat and damaging pests?
 
   

November 30th 2010

How did kangaroos stop being wonders of the Australian bush, becoming only good for food or sport?

Why do conflicting opinions abound about how many kangaroos Australia should maintain and how many we can sustain, if these animals are intensively harvested in the wild for meat? Despite industry reassurances, do kangaroos and their pouch young suffer cruelly at the hands of hunters?

Based on cutting-edge UTS research, this public lecture addresses the contentious issues of harvesting and eating kangaroos as a means to protect the environment and examines the laws and regulations that govern the well-being of one of our most treasured national icons.

I have previously written about this subject and the abhorrent way that joeys are ‘finished off’ after their mothers have been slaughtered. See https://roslynmotter.com/2010/03/27/baby-seals-and-joeys-a-head-splitting-issue/

I didn’t go to the talk so I don’t know what was said, however I think that the crux of the problem is that more than anything, we want their land.  Koalas are proving to be a jolly nuisance as they tend to live in highly desirable areas – Port Macquarie, Nelson Bay, the southern part of Queensland for example, where a lot of development is occuring.

All animals need a certain amount of space for their habitat before they become stressed.  It’s no use leaving a few trees with koalas on either side of a double lane highway and hoping that everything will work out. It won’t work out for the koalas anyway.

But then it’s not just koalas and kangaroos who are animals non gratis. It’s fruit bats, ibises, sharks, wombats, crocodiles, cockatoos, possums – the list goes on. 

I remember when the beautiful Christmas Beetle was a Christmas trademark. They’d be all over the place in summer. I haven’t seen one for years.  I read last week how Stephen Fellenberg has said that their disappearance is due to their habitat being destroyed. They have an incubation period of two years under the ground before they emerge, fully formed.  These incubation areas are being dug up to make way for housing developments. Same old story.

We’ve made life as miserable as we can for Australian wildlife. We’ve brought in Indian Mynah birds and cane toads which have decimated our birds and native animals. Whatever is left over is under serious stress.

Curiously, since I wrote this blog I’ve noticed a few people googling ‘are cows and sheep native Australian animals?’ Well the answer to this is a big NO. They, together with foxes, rabbits, dogs, cats and pigs were brought out to Australia from England after colonisation. Foxes were for ‘sport’ and I’m sure rabbits were for food, as were the pigs, cows and sheep. Cats and dogs were for pets. We’ve since helped by bringing in Myrna birds and cane toads.

I’ve spoken about biodiversity before. The links in the chain are fast coming apart and it won’t be long before we find out what the repercussions will be.

It looks like we can soon forget Australia’s native iconic animals. 

A report was recently released titled ‘Into Oblivion: The disappearing native mammals of northern Australia’. It estimates that the number of sites classified as empty of mammal activity rose from 13% in 1996 to 55% in 2009 and predicts that in 20 years native mammals will be extinct. Presumably that does not include the human mammal. However, how can we be sure? We are just one link in that biological chain and if we are the only link left, what will that mean for our survival?

We can expect that in a few years all that will remain in Australia will be people, cane toads, Indian mynahs, cows and sheep and strangely, the government doesn’t seem to care or maybe now it’s just all too hard.

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