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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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Trashing the Planet

Photo of earth as we know it from freefoto.com

The most important philosophy of any indigenous tribe of people is to leave the earth in the same state as they found it. The Australian Aborigines for example (until of course white people mucked them up) left behind nothing when they died, not even a gravestone – no constructions of any kind, plastic bags, books, clothes or machines. The American Indians did the same and Amazonian Aborigines.

When they killed an animal for food they thanked their gods for the catch and for the life of the animal. They didn’t kill for pleasure. They valued the lives of every animal because they realized that their fate was linked with that of the animals.

They had no greed for land as they believed that they were the guardians of the land, not the owners. They were easy to dupe as they didn’t understand the white man’s lust for land ownership.  

We gave them Christianity and a plethora of diseases and stole their lands. The proud peoples who had been guardians of the land for all those years and who had never plundered the natural resources, were herded into reservations and kept silent with an endless supply of alcohol.

 And once we got our hands on their land, what a fine mess we made!

Fishing boats from http://www.freefoto.com

Next week Australian television is going to show a program on how there will soon be no fish left in the sea. Such is the state of over fishing that the seas will soon be empty.

I have written a number of times about the recent incident in Siberia where normally peaceful bears attacked miners because their salmon had been taken by poachers. Bears do eat roots of plants but their bulk can only be sustained by eating protein and this they achieve by eating huge amounts of salmon.  If they don’t bulk up by the time winter arrives and they go into hibernation, they are in big trouble. Well, such has been the state of overfishing of salmon in Siberian waters that there have been no fish left to breed. There is no fish left as food for the bears or for that matter, to reproduce to create new stocks of salmon.

Illegal poaching of the Russian sturgeon for prized caviar is fast putting the sturgeon on the endangered list. And Asian countries have been warned that their appetite for bluefin tuna and Shark Fin Soup have pushed bluefin tuna and many species of shark perilously close to extinction. 

Industrial-scale fishing and harvesting on the high seas has caused stocks to plunge by up to 80 per cent in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic, where tuna come to spawn in the warmer waters. Just this week Greenpeace activists clashed violently with French tuna fishermen. One activist was harpooned in retaliation.

 In March this year, a proposal to totally ban the trade in the critically endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna failed at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Despite the fact that the Atlantic bluefin population has plummeted 80 percent since 1970, only 20 nations voted for a ban. Sixty eight countries voted against a ban—including Japan and Canada—while 30 abstained.  A total ban on bluefin tuna fishing has repeatedly received the support of international scientists.

Indigenous peoples were never cruel to animals, but our treatment of animals, fish and birds is appauling. Shark fins are hacked off live sharks and the still alive shark is tossed back in the ocean to drown.

These days whaling is almost universally frowned upon. The largest mammal in the ocean, we see the whale as an intelligent and majestic creature. However, various countries still hunt them and although Australia screams and stamps their little feet about it, we had fully operational whaling stations here until the 1960s.  We did a fine job killing whales and that is one of the major reasons that the world wide whale population is severely depleted.

As for the abominations in the sea oil fields, I wonder how much sea life is being destroyed by the hundreds of annual oil spills around the world?  The current BP oil spill is of course a massive disaster and will kill animals and sealife in marshlands in Mississippi and wherever else it goes. However, this oil spill is only one of many. Our lust for oil is to blame and if you’d like to read more about the evil side of oil, read my recent blog, Something Oily is Going on Here. https://roslynmotter.com/2010/05/17/something-oily…-going-on-here/

I wonder what our plan B is for what to do when we have wiped out all the sea life?

Meanwhile, on land we’re doing a fine job draining marshes and hacking and burning down jungles, forests and bushland all over the world so that we can build ever more houses; grow more soy bean and palm oil plantations; or create more land for cattle. A huge percentage of wild animals are now endangered if not already on the way to extinction e.g. tigers, elephants, rhinosauruses, Moon Bears, Grisley Bears, Black Bears, King Cobras, orangutans, gorillas, Tasmanian Devils, koalas, the New Zealand Tuatara, wedge-tail eagles and an endless number of other animals and birds. The principal reason is loss of habitat leading to loss of prey, starvation, stress and deadly run ins with humans. Indigenous peoples living in jungles in the Amazon, Malaysia and elsewhere, are driven out of their homes and forced into poverty in city ghettos. We want their land.

And the rubbish we create in the cities! The technology revolution has created a senario whereby a computer becomes obsolete virtually weeks after you’ve bought it.  Suburban streets are littered with computer screens and keyboards that no one wants. And the situation is not getting better. The release of the new Ipad is going to create a computer revolution which will have a far reaching impact on many industries.  On the positive side it just might save a few trees as books become outmoded.

Two years ago I visited Hawaii and I was disturbed by the number of plastic bags that were clinging to trees on the cliff faces overlooking the oceans on both sides of the island of Oahu.  The bags billowed in the winds like ghostly flags and I wondered how many had made it into the oceans.

Well now I know. I have copied the following from the website http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/the-worlds-rubbish-dump-a-garbage-tip-that-stretches-from-hawaii-to-japan-778016.html . The article is titled, The World’s Rubbish Dump: A tip that stretches from Hawaii to Japan by Kathy Marks and Daniel Howden.

A “plastic soup” of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States, scientists have said.

  The vast expanse of debris – in effect the world’s largest rubbish dump – is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting “soup” stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan. 

Charles Moore, an American oceanographer who discovered the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” or “trash vortex”, believes that about 100 million tons of flotsam are circulating in the region. Marcus Eriksen, a research director of the US-based Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which Mr Moore founded, said yesterday: “The original idea that people had was that it was an island of plastic garbage that you could almost walk on. It is not quite like that. It is almost like a plastic soup. It is endless for an area that is maybe twice the size as continental United States.”

Certainly when I was recently in Patagonia, at the furthest area south of Argentina, I saw plastic bags floating in the harbour. These would be heading south to Antarctica. Most sea life now apparently contains plastic in their tissues.

As for nuclear waste, where is that all disposed? We live in hope that all countries using nuclear materials will dispose of them correctly. But we know that’s not going to happen, don’t we? In April this year some poor fellow ferreting around a rubbish dump looking for scrap metals  in Delhi, India died of radioactive poisoning when he pulled apart a machine once used by the chemistry class of a major Indian university.  This certainly raises concerns about India’s ability to safely dispose of hazardous waste.

But how does anyone dispose of radioactive waste?

You don’t, once it is created it exists forever (or close to forever depending on the amount of radioactive material involved). There is a process called the “half life’, some isotopes degrade rapidly, others last for thousand of years. All you can do is isolate it, entomb it, and hope that it remains undistrubed for the next zillion years, just like the pharohs thought when they were entombed. (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_do_you_dispose_of_nuclear_waste)

Comforting, isn’t it?

Of course, there is always the hope that we could find another habitable planet out there. Now wouldn’t that be wonderful?  The senario (not too far fetched methinks) in the movie, Avatar, would be a possible conclusion.  I bet that soon giant garbage space ships will be taking earth’s rubbish and dumping it on other planets. Or perhaps we’ll just write off earth as a lost cause and all the politicians and important and super rich people will wave goodbye and fly off to inhabit another solar system where they can start the trashing anew.

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