If you are like me seeing this image, a surfer in “the pipe”, catching a wave full of garbage is as a repulsive an image as one might imagine—-but it does say a lot about how we are treating our oceans—-like a vast, un-managed garbage dump available to all who live near the oceans, as well as some who don’t: one way or another we are all guilty. But this scene is only the beginning of the problems our oceans face world-wide.
When I served in the Navy beginning in 1969, I was stationed in Pensacola, Florida on the gulf coast. It was there that I discovered one of my favorite eating fish, the Red Snapper, which at that time was in great abundance: Red Snapper swam in schools you could see around the docks close to the shore in Escambia Bay, Pensacola’s gateway to the gulf. Local fishing boats took passengers out into the bay to indulge in what was usually a plentiful catch. People could always count on a dinner of Red Snapper, just by dropping a fishing line in the water. Along the gulf coast, living off the ocean was not just a myth, but a reality enjoyed by all who wanted to participate, young, old, wealthy or poor: at the time it seemed as if there was fish aplenty, that the stores could never be depleted. But that all changed within my lifetime. I had a chance to visit that area a few years ago and was shocked to learn how things had changed: Red Snapper fishing was not so easy anymore. Fishing boats have to go out 50 to 75 miles into the gulf just to see and fish for Red Snapper: very often they didn’t catch any. This has all taken place within a generation.
As fish stocks are depleted, they are replaced by jelly fish. There are already depleted fish schools that used to be plentiful, including the cod fishery off of Newfoundland and the blue tuna fishery world wide. It is a shocking to read world sailor Ivan Macfaydyen’s account of the difference when making the same global sailing trip between Melbourne and Osaka, Japan just ten years ago compared to his most recent voyage over the same route. On the trip ten years ago, he comments “there was not one of the 28 days on that portion of the trip when we didn’t catch a good-sized fish to cook up and eat with some rice.” He points out that, in his most recent sailing adventure, he found a dead ocean—-no birds, no fish: during the entire journey he netted just two fish. The Major life he saw was a whale with a tumor on its head.
But our oceans are far worse than what this image conveys. It’s what we are dissolving in the ocean that threatens the oceanic environment far more than the visible garbage, as repulsive at the image above might be. The oceans are a sink for the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the air which, when dissolved in the ocean, forms carbonic acid, leading to acidification and a loss of coral formation. Many experts are predicting that coral reefs will be gone within the time frame of a single generation.
We have created large dead zones in our oceans, as excess fertilizer, carried off the land by rain and carried by streams to the ocean. In the ocean it nourishes a huge growth of algae, and the decaying algae nourish a huge growth of bacteria. The bacteria suck all the dissolved oxygen out of the water, and the fish die. This has created huge dead zones in coastal waters and, some suspect, in the deep ocean as well, though that has yet to be confirmed.
Recently the largest dead zone ever recorded invaded the gulf of Mexico and covered 8,500 square miles conveying death to every fish in its wake. Over the past 10 years a number of fish stocks have collapsed. These include the Peruvian anchovy, Alaskan pollack, North Sea cod, South African anchovy, Alaska king crab, and California sardine.
Canada has eliminated cod fishing off Newfoundland because of overfishing. This area used to be one of the world’s richest sources of cod. Overfishing drove cod populations so low, that further fishing would have driven the species to near extinction. Giant trawlers, having nets that reach the bottom have caught the breeding size fish such that reproduction has been largely eliminated.
The most disturbing feature of how we are treating our oceans is that we are destroying our oceans before we understand them. That, combined with the fact that no country assumes responsibility for maintaining ocean quality, means that we are almost helpless as we witness the decline in ocean quality, without the capacity to do anything about it. Have we reached a point of no return in overpopulation and over fishing?
Plastics are also a major source of ocean pollution. Ocean plastic breaks up into bite-sized pieces, eaten by fish who die from the ingestion. There must be a syndrome for this but I couldn’t find it: Plastic Fish Intoxication?
Mexico City is only the 19th most populated city on the planet but this image conveys how city growth has left the city with no room for parks or more natural habitat. When the city experiences temperature inversion smog, birds flying into the smog will very often die before finishing their journey. We are choking off the air we breathe and the oceanic contribution to our food intake. When will we learn to seriously address these problems? We almost don’t know where to begin. One in six jobs in the United States is related to the ocean.Print This Post
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If you are like me, I assume that whenever you have a big public turnout against a leftist regime, taking place in a South American country, the CIA is deeply involved. So I assume that explains what is happening in Venezuela right now, with large crowds protesting the Moduro government. But declaring Venezuela to be a security threat to the United States? Who does Obama think he is kidding? Are we facing the imminent threat of an invasion from the Venezuelan army? Has the country hired a bunch of mercenaries to plant bombs in Times Square? This is too clownish to be real. What is going on in Venezuela? We cry out for clarity! You will note the complete absence of any significant U.S. reporting on the situation down there, coupled with the failure of the White House press corps to ask about the situation in Venezuela. So are we faced with a complete blackout of knowledge about Venezuela? Why in the world did Obama place sanctions against Venezuela? When I am confronted with situations such as these—-a news blackout about a leftist government in South America, I usually turn to someone with knowledge about the area. In this case you will find Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center For Economic Policy Research up to the task of setting us straight on the situation down there: he is writing in U.S. News and World Report. I urge you to read Weisbrot’s article within the confines of your own home, safely out of harms way in case a Venezuelan drone is flying overhead! Over and out.
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