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Mole's Progressive Democrat

The Progressive Democrat Newsletter grew out of the frustration of the 2004 election. Originally intended for New York City progressives, its readership is now national. For anyone who wants to be alerted by email whenever this newsletter is updated (usually weekly), please send your email address and let me know what state you live in (so I can keep track of my readership).

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

I am a research biologist in NYC. Married with two kids living in Brooklyn.

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  • Help end world hunger
  • Thursday, August 06, 2009

    Saving the Earth's Fisheries

    I have from time to time highlighted two major threats to the global food supply: colony collapse disorder that has been threatening the major pollinator of about one third of our food supply, and the ongoing collapse of nearly half the world's fisheries. Together these pose a very serious threat to our abilities to feed the world's population, perhaps threatening up to half the world's food production. During the Bush presidency, there was some attention given to colony collapse disorder thanks to the Sec. of Agriculture. But Bush's main response to the collapse of fisheries was to censor scientific reports from NOAA that reported on these collapses. Denial, of course, does not solve problems.

    I have been avoiding eating fish almost completely due to both the collapse of so many fisheries and to the high level of mercury in seafood. If we can save fisheries and stop burning so much coal (a major source of mercury pollution), both of these problems could be reduced considerably.

    Colony collapse disorder is still ongoing, but recently there has been a breakthrough in our understanding of the problem, if not yet any progress in slowing the decline of bees. Now, on the fisheries front, researchers have pretty much worked out the exact steps that need to be taken (by international agreements, presumably) to reverse the collapse of the world's fisheries. In fact, researchers have found that some changes have already made a huge difference in areas where they have been imposed.

    From BBC News:

    There is fresh hope that the world's depleted fisheries can be saved from collapse, says a team of researchers.

    They said that efforts introduced to halt overfishing in five of the 10 large marine ecosystems they examined were showing signs of success...

    "This was a little like a crime scene investigation for overfishing," said lead author Boris Worm, a marine biologist from Dalhousie University, Canada...

    "This is really quite a big step forward because the exploitation rate is the primary driver of depletion and collapse, just as CO2 is the primary driver of climate change."

    However, he added that the exploitation rate was the one factor that could be adjusted by direct human intervention, such as introducing management practices.

    The authors observed: "Some of the most spectacular rebuilding efforts have involved bold experimentation with closed areas, [fishing] gear restrictions and new approaches to catch allocations and enforcement."

    But they warned that the signs of recovery should not be interpreted by policymakers as a sign that all was well beneath the waves.

    The majority of fisheries were still in trouble, and were not being managed or regulated properly.


    The international efforts that led to the banning of ozone-depleting CFC's worked to slow and soon to reverse the loss of the UV-blocking ozone layer, and should be a model for such efforts. Better regulation of ALL fisheries could now be the next international environmental effort, if governments listen to the scientists for once.

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