Saturday, March 15, 2008

Fewer Fish

Well, let me complete this series of gloomy messages by mentioning a UN Environment Progamme report issued a couple of weeks ago titled Dead Water.

Here's the article that introduces it:

In a nutshell, global warming is expected both to raise the temperature of ocean waters and change circulation patterns in a way that will impact negatively the world's fisheries and the habitats that support the fecundity of the oceans (like coral reefs).

More carbon dioxide dissolved in ocean water will lower the pH (increase the acidity) and quite probably affect the ability of many marine creatures to form shells and similar structures.

Now throw in overfishing plus development and pollution of coastal areas and marginal wetlands - and well - it's a pretty ugly picture. Agricultural runoff and waste water discharge into the oceans in problematic, and depleted fishing stocks leave areas vulnerable to invasive marine species.

The prediction is that the worst impact will be on up to 15% of the world's oceans - and that fraction that includes the most significant fishing grounds.

Agriculture, energy use, water use, ocean health - and human poverty. Once again we see the interlaced complexities of planetary degradation.
And we aren't going to have much fish to eat.
I grew up in a coastal family where fish were an important part of our diet. This may have been even more true for my mother, her parents and their forebears. I recall stories about my grandfather feeding his family by digging a bucket of clams on his way home from work. We tried to take care when taking fish or shellfish, always mindful of our impact. But our individual or household acts of local conservation were not enough. Somehow this helps me to identify with poorer coastal peoples who find that their marine stocks are depleted, that a part of their subsistence and culture are gone, for reasons beyond the scope of their local stewardship.
We must reconceive what it means to be a neighbor.

No comments: