FISHERIES MAY BE MORE FRAGILE THAN YOU THINK
people like scary stories. I'm not sure why, but apparently they enjoy
being scared out of their wits by zombies, maniacal chainsaw-wielding
murderers and other monsters.
creatures, however, are not the only way to frighten readers. "Our
Fragile Coastal Fisheries: Can They Survive Man's Relentless Growth?"
has none of those kinds of characters but it might be the most spine-chilling
story you've read this century.
(2004, Trafford Publishing, Victoria, Canada) by Don Phillips is available
on Amazon for $24.95.
plot is a common one in environmental books and documentaries. In this
one the protagonists are fish. The bad guys are us. Many ocean fishes
are besieged by three threats: pollution, habitat destruction and overharvesting.
statement in the book's preface sets the stage regarding marine fishes
inhabiting coastal areas: "Population growth coupled with increasing
affluence and expectations will require extraordinary changes in our
way of life to avoid a worldwide fisheries disaster."
has a lifetime of fishing experience and a base of scientific facts
to support his claims.
of the book's 10 chapters is an overview of physical, chemical and biological
factors that affect natural resources in the ocean.
on the diversity of marine life, water quality, climate and weather
follow. There is also a chapter on aquatic habitats that are critical
to the health of coastal fisheries.
In a telling
statement about that chapter, the author says, "Unfortunately,
I'll also have to document the extent to which man has destroyed these
habitats and the resultant impacts upon marine life." The facts
are indeed frightening, but recognizing a problem is always the first
step in solving it. Being aware of human-caused environmental devastation
allows us to identify unfettered profiteers who cause the problems.
targets the common denominator of most environmental problems: human
population growth. As with many other areas plagued by too many people,
the stresses on coastal fishes and their habitats are apparent.
each on commercial and recreational sport fishing compares the impacts
of the two. In the last few pages of the book are graphs showing the
annual commercial and recreational harvest levels over several decades
for more than 100 species of coastal Atlantic and Pacific fishes.
the impact in perspective, the numbers shown are in millions of pounds,
with many reaching their peak at more than 30 million pounds in some
years. Not surprisingly, the highest numbers and most dramatic declines
are for commercial fisheries.
chapter, titled "The Road to Recovery," offers a note of cautious
optimism that the recovery of coastal fisheries is possible. As with
most other forms of wildlife, the problems for marine fishes are human
induced, either directly or indirectly. Which means we also hold the
key to possible solutions.
focuses on a variety of factors and attitudes that need to change, including
fisheries management. He uses as an example of poor management practices,
the collapse of New England fisheries in the late 1900s when the Atlantic
cod became commercially extinct.
according to Phillips, was that government fisheries managers were "not
listening to their own scientists and [were instead] capitulating to
the relentless demands of a very powerful commercial fishing lobby."
whether commercial or recreational, must be a sustainable activity.
The concept is quite simple: if we are going to exploit any living commodity
it must be able to replenish itself at the same or a faster rate than
we are removing it.
government regulations that some people like to complain about are often
necessary to ensure such sustainability. And sustainable harvesting
is in everyone's best interest.
"Frankenstein" and "The Shining" are examples of
classic horror novels. But for really scary reading try "Our Fragile
Coastal Fisheries." You may not be able to sleep thinking about
what will happen if we don't take action.
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