Giant Cod and Whales

This is the first serious measure of what has been lost in terms of our global fishery. Of much more concern is the ongoing lack of willingness to tackle the economic fallout and to establish protocols that can bring about recovery.

The loss is huge and catastrophic. Recovery must take decades and in some instances it will take centuries. That is necessary is obvious to everyone, and delay is beginning to wear very thin. This is a valid cause for Greenpeace to take on and develop.

Right now, we are passing through the era of the last common fisheries in which the stakeholders are been squeezed out of their livelihoods. Since no one is prepared to step up and manage anything except political spin, it is reasonable that the Alaska fishery will be soon destroyed. It is also obvious that even the mid ocean fisheries are been diminished by practices that can be described as boneheaded stupid.

Two things have to happen once all fisheries are driven to economic failure.

Fishery title must be established by international convention on the basis of a guaranteed annual tax remittance and bonded accordingly.

A system of refuges must be established and rigorously enforced. Fish are not overtly territorial but are predictable enough that coastal strips and certain reefs and the like act as nurseries for the production of both juveniles and mature fish. Checkerboard refuges can be established for bottom dwellers, allowing the surplus to constantly repopulate fishing areas. Everyone uses gps today, so it has become completely practical.

Thus if you want to fish, you will bid the fishery for twenty years or so at a crack with renewal rights and provide a guaranteed minimum every year. This forces one to maintain the health of the fishery. It is chancy and difficult, but also rewarding to the good operator.

Even fishing in pre determined quarter mile strips that are spaced a half a mile apart and are miles long should work very well. It would leave the sea full of fish and create natural refuges for most species. It could also put the catch on an upward trend.

I am sure that this will be argued as naïve but the technology exists to provide the necessary compliance framework.

Giant cod and whales were once plentiful: researchers

by Staff WritersWashington (AFP) May 26, 2009

Just 200 years ago, tens of thousands of whales swam the waters around New Zealand while sharks patrolled the British coastlines, say researchers who tell of lost abundance in the world's oceans.

Around 100 global experts have united under a group called the Census of Marine Life to study the state of the Earth's waters from a historical viewpoint and how advances in technology have wielded devastation on sealife.

The decade-long project brings researchers to Vancouver, Canada from Tuesday and aims to publish its final report in 2010 with inputs from historical accounts as well as geological, botanical and archeological research.

"What we are looking at is a global picture of decline because of fisheries and habitat destruction," said Poul Holm, professor at Trinity college Dublin and one of the authors of a report to be presented at the three-day conference.

The revolution in fishing first came in the 1600s, when boaters began taking their vessels out in pairs to fish with nets. Then, large scale fisheries began to take hold in the 1800s.

"The impact of early fisheries was substantial," Holm told AFP. "The impact on ocean life has been enormous. And it happened earlier than anyone would have thought."

Not so long ago, marine fauna was more abundant, fish were bigger and predators more numerous.

But the size of fish began to decline in Europe from the Middle Ages with the first mass-scale fisheries, and the variety of underwater sealife began to shrink as well.

Today, even the predator population is but 10 to 15 percent of what it was at the start of the 19th century, researchers say.

One hundred years ago, cod measuring 1.5 meters (nearly five feet) was frequently sold while today the biggest are around 50 centimeters (20 inches) because of overfishing and the trend of catching the cod too early.

The cod's average lifespan has also dropped dramatically from 10 years to barely 2.8, according to Holm.
Researchers point to losses in the whale population particularly around New Zealand, whose waters boasted between 22,000 and 32,000 whales at the start of the 1800s but only had about 25 in 1925. Around a thousand live today off the country's southern coast.

In the same area, where historians say settlers began moving to in the 13th century, the snapper population was seven times higher then.

In most of the zones studied, changes brought on by human activity stretched on for a periods of more than a thousand years but radical changes are also observable within the space of just a few dozen years.

In south Florida's Key West for example, the average size of a fish in the mid 1950s was 20 kilograms (50 pounds). Today it is 2.3 kilograms (five pounds).

Still Holm says the findings give reason for hope.

"It's very useful to just be aware of what we have lost," said Holm.

"Although we are detecting a story of decline, its actually a hopeful message," he added.

"Because we can use the evidence to suggest that if we step back, if we introduce
conservation measures, fisheries regulations and avoid some of the stresses that cause harm to ocean life, we will be able to rebuild ocean life to a level which provides a lot of hope and would be able to feed many more people than the oceans are able today."

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