Fishers Learn to Share Shrinking Catch


By Stephen Leahy

SAN DIEGO, California, Feb 10 (IPS) – With the oceans in crisis, where will our fish – an important source of protein for billions of people – come from?

Innovative new fisheries management tools called “catch share” have begun in recent years and promise to keep fish on the menu for future generations, according to experts at the recent Seafood Summit in San Diego.

“Adaptation is the key – adaptation and innovation,” Kristjan Davidsson, former CEO of Iceland Seafood International, told over 450 conference attendees last week.

“It is not hard to see that sustainability is the way to go but that requires collaboration with all sectors,” Davidsson said.

The summit brought together fishers, fish farmers, multinational seafood corporations and seafood buyers, along with conservationists and scientists, to debate and find common ground on how to create a sustainable seafood industry and protect the oceans.

Fish account for 28 percent of the animal protein consumed in Asia and 16 percent globally. North America is at the low end of the scale, with fish accounting for just 6.6 percent of animal protein, according to data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation. Continue reading

Today’s Trophy Fish Are Tiddlers Compared to 50 Years Ago

trophy-fish-19501 Fresh evidence of fishing’s impact on marine ecosystems.

These are trophy fish caught on Key West charter boats in (a) 1957, (b) early 1980s and (c) 2007.

Scripps Oceanography graduate student researcher Loren McClenachan accessed archival photographs spanning more than five decades to analyze and calculate a drastic decline of so-called “trophy fish” caught around coral reefs surrounding Key West, Florida.

The study shows a stark 88 percent decline in the estimated weight of large predatory fish shown in black-and-white 1950s sport fishing photos compared to the relatively diminutive catches photographed in modern pictures.

“These results provide evidence of major changes over the last half century and a window into an earlier, less disturbed fish community…” writes McClenachan.

“The ongoing debate about the status of fisheries in the Florida Keys is a classic problem of the Shifting Baselines syndrome,” says Scripps Professor Jeremy Jackson. “Managers mistakenly assume that what they saw in the 1980s was pristine, but most prized fish species had been reduced to a small fraction of their pristine abundance long before. Historical ecology provides the critical missing data to evaluate what we lost before modern scientific surveys began.”

“I think the photos in this very original paper will make lots of people change their mind,” said Daniel Pauly, a professor at the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre and Zoology Department.

Research paper published online in January and printed in an upcoming issue of the journal Conservation Biology,

[Source: Scripps news release Feb 18 2009]

Related articles: Coral Reefs and Acid Oceans Series

Get the latest Leahy articles once a week: Subscribe

Plenty of Blame for Collapsing Fish Stocks

yellow-fin-tuna-catch-galapagosBy Stephen Leahy

SAN DIEGO, California, Feb 4 (IPS) – Climate change, pollution and overfishing have left the oceans in crisis, experts agree. Now a new study reveals that every national government with a fishing fleet has dramatically failed to manage fisheries in a responsible manner.

A detailed survey of the 53 countries that land 96 percent of the world’s marine catch shows that all have failed to comply with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Developed in 1995, the 53 fishing nations all agreed to comply with the code as a potential rescue measure for the world’s fisheries.

And while countries claimed to comply, in fact not one is in full compliance, according the detailed analysis reported in the science journal Nature Wednesday.

I’m confident we would have turned the corner on the collapsing fish stocks had countries complied with the code,” said Tony Pitcher of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, one of the study co-authors. Continue reading

Canada Refuses to Support Wind Energy


First World Wind Energy Conference held in Canada but Federal Government Refuses to Participate

Canada’s federal government refused to participate or support the wind energy conference. It was up to other countries and institutions, including Germany and the United Nations, to provide funding for delegates from the global South to attend.

“I’m embarrassed and ashamed,” Volker Thomsen, one of the chief conference organisers, told delegates at the opening of the meeting.

Governments fail to vigourously switch over to renewables because the way things are works for them, said Scheer. The extremely powerful fossil fuel lobby also wants no changes so they can continue to profit from their investments in the current energy infrastructure. And that’s why letting the conventional power companies, utilities and experts take charge of renewables will lead to very little change, he warns.

Not only is 100 percent renewable energy possible, it can be done much faster and cheaper than building coal or nuclear power plants, said Scheer. Multi-megawatt wind turbine farms and solar arrays can be up in running in 18 months. But when energy is needed, the first thing most governments want to build are big, expensive power plants.

“The public and renewable energy sector must push governments and push them hard to change this,” Scheer stressed.

[Excerpt from my IPS June 25/08 article Failure on Global Warming “Un-American”]

Tropical Forests Fight for Survival


By Stephen Leahy*

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 28 (Tierramérica) – Current rates of deforestation suggest there will hardly be any tropical forests left in 20 years. Sixty percent of the rainforests, which survived for 50 million consecutive years, are already gone.

However, some experts say widespread planting of previously logged forests offers hope for preserving some of the region’s rich and unique biodiversity.

Recent satellite data have shown that about 350,000 square kilometres of the original forested areas are growing back, Greg Asner of the Washington-based Carnegie Institution said at the Smithsonian symposium Jan. 12 at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, also in the U.S. capital.

That is only 1.7 percent of the immense planetary belt of original forest that once covered 20 million square kilometres. Twelve million sq km have already been cleared while another five million have been selectively logged, Asner reported.

“There is going to be lots of tropical forest left in the future but it will be different forest,” says Joseph Wright of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama. Continue reading