Marine experts address the global fisheries crisis

03/22/07 Brandon Martin
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Yesterday the National Environmental Trust and the National Geographic joined with Rep. Kathy Castor and environmental experts in a teleconference to discuss the global fisheries crisis. The April issue of National Geographic, which addresses the fisheries crisis, seems to have spawned the roundtable discussion. Brandon Martin reports.

 

Fish populations have reached dangerously low levels worldwide. And because of this, many fisheries-or the habitats of fishes, are near collapse. This is caused by many factors including overfishing, destruction of marine habitat, weak enforcement of legislation passed to protect fisheries, and an indifference of consumers toward what they eat.

Rep. Castor explained the importance of fishing in Florida.

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One article in the April issue of National Geographic exposes the plight of the Atlantic, or bluefin, tuna. Matt Rand of the National Environmental Trust gave some statistics on the fishing of bluefin.

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Later on, Fen Montaigne, the author of that article, also added some stats.

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Montaigne, along with photojournalist and diver Brian Skerry, sought to inform readers and change the way they think about fish. Here's Brian Skerry.

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And here's Fen Montaigne, also on changing our perception of the fish population.

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Environmental advocates say that the fishing industry is partly to blame for the near collapse of the fish stocks. According to Skerry, inefficient and negligent fishing methods lead to bycatch, or species of fish other than what are targeted during any given fishing expedition. These unwanted fish are thrown back into the ocean.

Advocates also claim that the failure of countries to regulate fishing and enforce fishery management also leads to overfishing. Montaigne said that the Eurpoean Union, despite their concern in other environmental fields, has also been guilty of weak regulation of fisheries.

Also detrimental to fish stocks are humans and land-based industry. A less harmful activity is uncontrolled recreational fishing. But it's the everyday industrial and domestic activities that are much more harmful. The EPA website says that activities such as fertilizing a lawn or dumping toxic chemicals into the nearest stream, lead to polluted runoff, as well as polluted estuaries and rivers feeding into main bodies of water such as the Gulf of Mexico. Results of this pollution are seen throughout the Gulf in "dead zones", areas that are unlivable for marine life. These dead zones are caused by harmful algae blooms that feed off of the excess nutrients found in runoff and rivers. Dr. Roy Crabtree, Southeast Regional Director of the National Marine Fisheries Service, spoke about steps taken to solve the problem.

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There is hope in current action being taken in order to protect fisheries. The Bush Administration recently reauthorized the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The House of Representatives has just passed the bill HR 720. This bill will allow for state and local funding to be spent on things such as improving stormwater treatment facilities. Aquaculture, or the harvesting of fish, that is done in an environmentally sound fashion-as Brian Skerry emphasized, can produce a good source of fish for human consumption. More efficient and less harmful fishing methods, like the improvement of bycatch reduction devices, will curb the incidental loss of fish populations by the fishing industry. And a society more conscious about the fish they eat and how much fertilizer they use for their lawns will curb the runoff pollution harming fisheries locally and worldwide.

For WMNF, this is Brandon Martin.

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