So very, very complicated — the Great Oceans — many would have us believe…
So very, very complicated that we must leave their “management” to an elite few… An elite few that will circle the globe in jetplanes, finger their latest techno-gadgets, attend the nicest of conferences at shiny conference centres, punching in their wireless access code with care and precision, while munching on the latest francais pastry from the continental breakfast…
Checking their email for the latest message on the ‘models’ churning out numbers back at the ranch… model this, model that… more ‘models’ then the latest fashion absurdities at the most esteemed Paris and New York runways…
Trust us, they say…
We have the ‘models’… they say.
we know, they EX-claim….
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But is it really that complicated?
Before the computer… before Newton… before Jobs and Gates, Watergate, and GPS, and the Great War(s)… well… the Oceans weren’t that ‘complicated’.
‘Lots of fish in the sea’… as they say.
littlest fish (and stuff) eaten by bigger fish, those in turn eaten by bigger… you know… rinse and repeat…
But not complicated, not even complex.
Respected. Feared. Loved. The oceans were…
But really… tide came in, tide went out. Moon pull here, moon pull there.
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Well… now that there’s “Fisheries Science” and distant-water fleets, and technology, and depth finders, and drift nets, and sounders… well… there’s not as many flounders… or turtles… or Tuna … or bonito, or abalone, or dolphins, or whales, or salmon or herring, or sardine, and…
Well, unless you’re a once thriving coastal fishing community where boats and licenses to catch fish were handed down, or, maybe even more importantly, a once thriving coastal fishing community that had ancestors tracing back… well… who knows how long… fishing in the same spot.
The spots, the meatholes, handed down since well before anyone even wrote “Job”… the biblical one that is…
Those are flounder-ing. Lots of it. Flounder here, Flounder there. With an EI here and EI there…
Go ask a Newfie.
Go ask a canyon fisher… Fraser that is. Or one from the Necha-Koh, where once 25% of the Fraser River wild salmon originated.
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And so headlines such as these… are they shocking? Are you surprised?
From the New York Times, Dec. 22, 2011:
When people talk about the environmental effects of salmon aquaculture, they usually focus on water pollution and the spread of disease to wild fish stocks. But there is another big problem: It takes more than a pound of fish to produce a pound of salmon.
Farmed salmon are usually fed pellets made from ground-up fish like herring. Salmon farms have a prodigious appetite for this food, which has increased fishing pressure on creatures like herring, anchovies, krill and other “forage fish” at the bottom of the food web. Demand for fish oil and fish for the table is also a factor.
From the New York Times, Apr. 2, 2012:
An international group of marine scientists is calling for cuts in commercial fishing for sardines, herring and other so-called forage fish whose use as food for fish farms is soaring. The catch should be cut in half for some fisheries, the scientists say, to protect populations of both the fish and the natural predators that depend on them.
… Forage fish are an important link in the food chain, eating plankton and being consumed, in turn, by large fish like tuna and cod, as well as by seabirds and dolphins and other marine mammals. The task force estimated that as a source of food in the wild for larger commercially valuable fish, forage fish were worth more than $11 billion, or twice as much as their worth when processed for aquaculture and other uses.
“Sometimes the value of leaving fish in the water can be greater than taking it out”…
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The ‘task force’ referred to is the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force:
With support from the Lenfest Ocean Program, the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University [on Long Island in New York] convened the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force, a panel of thirteen preeminent marine and fisheries scientists from around the world.
The Final Report: Little Fish, Big Impact: Managing a crucial link in ocean food webs can be downloaded here – as well as a shorter Summary Report.
Here is the media release at the site.
Expert Task Force Recommends Halving Global Fishing for Crucial Prey Species
Forage Fish Twice as Valuable in the Water as in the Net
WASHINGTON – Fishing for herring, anchovy, and other “forage fish” in general should be cut in half globally to account for their critical role as food for larger species, recommends an expert group of marine scientists in a report released today.
The Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force conducted the most comprehensive worldwide analysis of the science and management of forage fish populations to date. Its report, “Little Fish, Big Impact: Managing a crucial link in ocean food webs,” concluded that in most ecosystems at least twice as many of these species should be left in the ocean as conventional practice.
A thriving marine ecosystem relies on plenty of forage fish. These small schooling fish are a crucial link in ocean food webs because they eat tiny plants and animals, called plankton, and are preyed upon by animals such as penguins, whales, seals, puffins, and dolphins. They are primary food sources for many commercially and recreationally valuable fish found around North America, such as salmon, tuna, striped bass, and cod.
The task force estimated that, globally, forage fish are twice as valuable in the water as in a net—contributing US$11.3 billion by serving as food for other commercially important fish. This is more than double the US$5.6 billion they generate as direct catch.
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Good on the task force for putting this out. It’s a pretty snappy looking report.
It’s just unfortunate that they rely on much of the same bumpf and buzz-words as every other “management” institution out there… Precautionary approach… ecosystem-based management… blah, blah, blah.
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From the Washington Post:
The smallest fish in the sea are more than twice as valuable when they’re eaten by bigger fish than when they’re caught by humans, according to a report released Sunday by a scientific task force.
The 120-page analysis by the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force — a group of 13 scientists specializing in everything from fish ecology to marine mammals and seabirds — underscores the growing concern researchers have about the fate of forage fish, including anchovies, mehaden, herring and sardines that serve as food for bigger fish, sea birds and marine mammals.
Forage fish account for 37 percent of the world’s commercial fish catch, with an annual value of $5.6 billion. (Only 10 percent of forage fish caught are eaten by humans; the remaining 90 percent are processed into fish meal and fish oil, which feed livestock and farmed fish.)
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Going back to the illustration at the top…
Is it really that complicated?
Glad the ‘task force’ was able to get some press and get the word out… at least to people that can read it, and feel like plowing through 120 pages…
However, I think I remember learning about a cycle like that pretty early in my Elementary school days…
Why is it that we have to put $$ value this, $$ value that.
How much do you think a herring is worth to a Chinook?
How much is an “endangered” herring worth to a “red-listed” heron, or Coho, or eagle…?
$1, $100, $11 billion…?
No, it’s just survival.
And they’ve been around a hell of a lot longer than “ecosystem-based” planning, or maxiumum sustained yield, or even the health benefits of Omega-3s… and sure as hell longer than ‘precautionary’ approach, or Cialis, or hatcheries, or goverment cuts and best practices.
Maybe a return or a cycle back, or a ‘control-alt-delete’ to a memory of systems and the fact that we can’t “manage” them would really pull us of this course with oblivion…
It’s not really that complex… it’s like the good ‘ol Golden Rule, or your car for that fact… you look after it… it’ll look after you…