Fish­ing out the oceans

The Southern Gazette - - Editorial -

The world’s oceans are huge, but in­ter­con­nected. The trash you care­lessly throw in the ocean may end up in Ire­land or Ice­land or far be­yond, and re­cent video from the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic has shown that the chick­ens (in the form of plas­tic waste) will al­ways come home to roost.

Ocean cur­rents move small fish and plank­ton along our coasts, and some of the larger marine species - whales, bluefin tuna, some sharks - have long, in­ter­juris­dic­tional mi­gra­tion routes.

That’s why it’s im­por­tant to look at an in­ter­na­tional fish­eries is­sue be­ing raised at the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion. The is­sue cen­tres around whether ma­jor fish­ing sub­si­dies should be al­lowed to con­tinue.

First, a lit­tle back­ground in­for­ma­tion put out by the U.S.-based in­de­pen­dent non-profit, non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion Pew Char­i­ta­ble Trusts. Pew re­search points out that 90 per cent of the world’s fish­eries are now fully fished or over­fished - but that’s not the most se­ri­ous statis­tic that the or­ga­ni­za­tion is high­light­ing.

“To­day, in part driven by fish­eries sub­si­dies, global fish­ing ca­pac­ity - the to­tal ca­pa­bil­ity of the world’s fleets - is es­ti­mated at 250 per cent of the level that would bring in the max­i­mum sus­tain­able catch,” writes El­iz­a­beth Wil­son, who di­rects in­ter­na­tional con­ser­va­tion pol­icy for Pew.

Stop and think about that for a mo­ment: there are enough boats, crews and tech­nol­ogy to catch ev­ery sus­tain­able fish in the world’s oceans two and a half times over.

In some places, fish­ing in un­fet­tered by re­quire­ments for catch records. In oth­ers, those catches are recorded in­com­pletely, and species are har­vested and sold un­der the ta­ble.

A re­cent re­port sug­gested that un­der­re­port­ing and il­le­gal fish­ery may be fa­cil­i­tated by shad­owy at-sea trans­ship­ment - deep-sea fish­ing ves­sels meet­ing cold-stor­age reefer ves­sels at sea and trans­fer­ring catches be­fore they can be fully recorded.

An­other thing about all that fish­ing? Much of it isn’t even prof­itable. For some na­tions, the most prof­itable catch they get by cast­ing their nets on the wa­ter is gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies they land in the process of fish­ing for ac­tual fish.

Pew’s re­search shows, among other things, that most high-seas fish­eries - like those car­ried out by Euro­pean and other na­tions on the Grand Banks off New­found­land (pri­mar­ily Spain) - would be fi­nan­cially un­sus­tain­able with­out steady gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies.

That’s not hap­pen­ing here, you might say. Maybe it isn’t to the same de­gree, though there are fish­ing sub­si­dies in the form of em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance for fish­ers and fish­eries work­ers, along with fed­eral as­sis­tance for fish­ing tech­nol­ogy and plant up­grad­ing.

But, like cli­mate change and the in­crease in the tem­per­a­ture of all the oceans, like the preva­lence of mi­croplas­tics not only in the ocean but in­side fish species we con­sume, like the ef­fects of the acid­i­fi­ca­tion of the ocean and the ef­fects of that acid­ity on cal­cium-us­ing marine biota, what hap­pens in one part of the world’s oceans ends up other places as well.

When our lives seem to be good, along comes those bumps in the road that cause us headaches and dis­be­lief. This is caused by gov­ern­ment and those big com­pa­nies who think that money is what brings hap­pi­ness. It seems that the more they have, the more they want, and if that is all they have then they are go­ing to have a pretty empty life.

We, the peo­ple of this won­der­ful prov­ince of New­found­land and Labrador, voted for whom we thought would take care of us

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