While the climate change movement has been chasing down one blind alley after another for the last twenty years, other environmental issues have gotten short shrift.The most urgent problem is the unsustainable assault on the world’s fragile fish stocks. As a paper in Marine Policy and a subsequent report in the Washington Post tell us, deep sea species of fish like orange roughy and Chilean seabass (not to mention deep sea coral, which is destroyed by fleets looking for fish on the ocean floor) are in serious danger from overfishing.
As vessels use Global Positioning System devices and trawlers, which scrape massive metal plates across the sea bottom, the catch of deep-water species has increased sevenfold between 1960 and 2004, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.“What they’re doing out there is more like mining than fishing,” said Kevin Hassett, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute…Bottom-trawling can crush deep-sea corals, which can live for as long as 4,000 years, the scientists noted. Some fish species of the deep live for more than a century, and while they can spawn many eggs, there can be several years in which juveniles fail to make it into adulthood.Orange roughy, which Australia declared a threatened species in 2006, take 30 years to reach sexual maturity and live up to 149 years. The leafscale gulper shark, one of several deep-water sharks targeted for its liver oil, “matures late, has only 5-8 pups per year and lives to be 70 years old,” the authors write.
Here we have an environmental situation where the science is clear (fish are disappearing), the solutions are tested and workable (slow down overfishing; create sustainable fisheries), the benefits are tangible (more fish for everyone; less destruction of unique deep sea ecosystem), but the advocacy falls short.Greens: focus on the fish. Protecting species from being hunted to extinction has been a hallmark of smart environmental activism since 19th century environmentalists worked on saving marine mammals through public education and international agreements. This is a fight you can win — and it is something that urgently needs to be done.Climate change has a way of sucking all the oxygen out of the room; the fight to save the world’s fisheries has been substantially weakened by all the money and energy that greens have poured into the stalemated fight against climate change. If environmentalists had spent the last twenty years dealing with issues like overfishing instead of wasting their time on the Kyoto Protocol and the chimerical global carbon treaty, the earth would be in better shape than it is, public confidence in environmentalists would be greater than it is, and I suspect that greens would be more skilled at developing and implementing workable policy solutions than they are now.