Fish being caught faster than they can reproduce

Fish being caught faster than they can reproduce

The oceans of the world should be farmed, as is fertile land wherever it exists on our planet. We call the rock that is Earth “our planet”. We assume proprietorial rights. Being the most evolved creatures it has produced, we see it as a birthright. But with possession comes responsibilities.

Now that the earth is in crisis, our first concern, superseding all others, must be to harness all our energies into saving it from further damage and ultimate destruction. I have a nerve, telling this to my readers. They know it already. It’s simply to set out my stall.

Fertile land and fertile sea, clean air, and life-nurturing sunlight were gifts given to every continent and every generation until ours came along. Even Antarctic wastes and burning deserts provided for life. Now it’s all going wrong. Everyone sensible sees this and wants to repair it.

But there are deniers. They scoff at petitions addressed to governments. They are wiser than we are, less naive. They join other scoffers on the internet. They tell one another that only fools support group initiatives for change, that the danger isn’t there in the first place, that the science is false, that those initiating the efforts have a sinister agenda.

Donald Trump, in America, has declared the science a lie. Climate change is a hoax, he tells his supporters and they should get on with whatever they’re profiting from because there’s no profit in conservation, we must forge on and exploit nature for every last cent that can be extracted.

That was, of course, the philosophy that ‘won the west’. But it was different then. Tragic as it was, the native American tribes that lived in balance with the nature had to be moved on. The buffalo had to be slaughtered in their millions, the hundred million passenger pigeons obliterated. The land had to be ploughed and cultivated if the poor and starving of Europe and the world were to be given succour.

The prairies supporting those handfuls of humans and millions of non-humans were, in the aggregate, the property of humanity, and their exploitation was in the cause of a larger human good.

But that was then. Then, the pressing into service of the earth’s natural resources was an honourable enterprise. Native populations were displaced and suffered cruelly but the salvation of the burgeoning millions who supplanted them was achieved.

Now, in our lifetimes, it has become evident that we can no longer exploit but must conserve, or see all that supported us — light, air, water, the essential elements — degrade to the extent that they can no longer function. With such dysfunction, all life on earth will be impoverished and, some say, may not even survive.

We do, indeed, live in historic times. In human history, no 100 years has ever seen such threats to the natural systems we live by. Since we evolved 3.2m years ago, the earth has been our giver of life. Now, we are killing it.

The only salvation is international mass-management of natural resources.

Almost everywhere, now, attempts are made on a local level to halt local environment degradation. Friends of The Earth Ireland fights national issues in the courts and, in my local area, Cork Nature Network, West Cork branch, meets regularly. Awareness is there; what is lacking is international unanimity to raise this issue to the top of every nation’s political agenda. To the sceptical, I would ask what other solution can there be?

What is to be done about the degradation of the world’s oceans, our common heritage? The seas around China have virtually no fish left but the commercial fleet of 200,000 boats still goes to sea. They head deeper into our common oceans and stay longer at sea.

Like the Dutch-owned supertrawlers Margiris and Annelies Ilena, they follow the migrations of ‘bait fish’, such as mackerel and herrings. These can net 250 tonnes of fish each day and freeze and hold 7,000 tonnes, allowing them to fish continuously for weeks. Targeted fish are being caught faster than they can possibly reproduce. The United Nations estimates that 90% of fisheries are either overfished or at the limit of sustainability.

These fish are the common property of all mankind. A small percentage of our species exploits them regardless, and bankrupts our children’s future. There are weak controls, or none. Surely, it is our responsibility to make those on the world stage who can unify and save the world’s oceans do so. If they will not, they must be replaced.

Meanwhile, I would suggest to those who are sceptical about save-the-world initiatives that they should, instead, be sceptical about Mr Trump, climate change deniers, and conspiracy theorists.

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