Utne Article Summary June 1998

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Utne Reader Article Summary

June 98

Ocean Solitaire By Bill McKibbon

Submitted by: Ladd Kocinski

500 years ago John Cabot stood on the tip of Cape Bonavista in Newfoundland and looked over the richest fishery on Earth. There were cod five and six feet long that weighed 200 pounds. Fifty years later, 60 per cent of all the fish eaten in Europe was cod. If one stands on the tip of Cape Bonavista today and looks out, there is not one boat that fishes for cod. There is a total ban on cod fishing that has been in effect since 1992 when stocks finally completely collapsed. What caused this? Demand and technology.

If one understands what happened to the cod, theyll also understand whats happening to the redfish, swordfish, tuna, and orange roughy. This list grows longer after each fishing season. For about 300 years after Cabot fisherman took about 150,000 tons of cod each year by hook and lines. Fish were taken when they were in season and when not fisherman did other things. Then came technology, nets, winches, GPS, process ships, distant water fleets. They took 800,000 tons a year and went into the ocean and hunted the fish. They found where they spawned and tore up the ocean floor in the process.

A 1990 report on the bottom of the North Sea showed that every square meter of that area of ocean floor had been dragged by a beam trawler at least once each year. Some spots were hit seven times and the trawling chains were turning the bottom into a virtual desert.

In Indonesia fisherman routinely kill miles of coral reef with blasts of dynamite and some pour cyanide into the water and collect the stunned fish.

Huge nets bring up millions of tons by catch each year. Trash fish that are tossed back overboard usually to die because of injury.

According to the United Nations, all 17 of the worlds major fishing regions are now fished above sustainable levels.

What is the answer? Obviously not the status quo. Its amazing that with the technology and knowledge available in the world at this time man can still only see the $. He continues to batter his own fragile environment and still disregards the known effect of his actions. Unless mankind can get a grip on the greed and senseless destruction that goes on each day, dooms day really is just around the corner.

On a lighter note, another article in the June 1998 Utne appeared below Ocean Solitaire. The name of this article is Counter Culture, written by Bill McKibbon also and appears on page 65. The article also discusses the immense problem of over fishing and the devastating consequence. The author points to one Alaskan fishing village that has enacted a conservation policy that seems to allow some harvest and yet ensure fish for future regeneration. Maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel!!

-- Anonymous, May 12, 1999

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