|Satellite image of trawler mud trails off the Louisiana coast via Wikipedia|
Over in the UK, mackerel has fallen off the sustainable fisheries list (as I mentioned the other day). Today, George Monbiot over at the Guardian, writes about the new quota rules in place on the mackerel and other fisheries. Of course the news isn't good. I'm reminded of Rapa Nui or Easter Island, when they were able to see that the trees they depended on for survival were being harvested at an unsustainable rate. Rapa Nui is not a really big island, and there is actually a vantage point where you can stand and look around at the whole island. You could see that there were only a few trees left, and you knew that if you didn't stop cutting them down, there would never be another tree. Ever. And when the colonial powers "discovered" the island some years later, there were only a few, half-starved, quite crazy, islanders left. With the head-building frenzy on them, they had knowingly cut down every tree on the island. What little soil there was on the island could now erode away. The boats needed for fishing soon fell into disrepair and became useless. And what was formerly a stable, functional society, had fallen to fallen to religious mania and breath-taking stupidity.
That is the history being played out in our fisheries. Stocks that would have lasted forever with handlining and small boat nets have fallen to the massively stupid trawlers. To a process that not only took too many fish too fast, but destroyed the environment needed by the stocks to replenish themselves. Not only are we as insane as the Easter islanders were, we are that stupid with industrial efficiency. In Canada, we destroyed the cod fishery (anyone else notice how it's really not coming back?) and we're in the process of destroying the West Coast salmon fishery.
I'll end with a quote from Monbiot's article:
Just before Christmas (which could explain the paucity of coverage the story received), the British government gleefully tore up the scientific advice, trampled the evidence, ignored the pleas of conservationists and gave two fingers to common sense by fighting to prevent the European Union from cutting the catch in the seas surrounding this country.
The chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, Bertie Armstrong, who plainly has a lively sense of humour, called it "a good outcome based on the science". To show how badly this industry has been rolled up in its own nets, he added that "the decision [by the EU] to set our overall share of the mackerel at the traditional level was also a sensible move."
What he is celebrating here is the EU's refusal to resolve the mackerel dispute with Norway, Iceland and the Faroes. All four players insist on awarding themselves a quota way in excess of what the stock can tolerate, with the result mackerel, until a year ago one of the few species not in serious trouble, is now being fished at a completely unsustainable rate. That, dear reader, is a "sensible move".
Again and again over the past few decades, our fishing industry has clamoured noisily to cut its own throat, then responded with astonishment and fury when it collapses as a result. Is there a clearer example of being blinded to your long-term interests by short-term greed?
All this has been accompanied by the government's failure to establish the 127 marine conservation zones it promised, and even more astonishing refusal to exclude industrial activities (principally commercial fishing) from any of the 31 it deigns to designate.