Tuesday, 14 January 2014

At the bottom of the sea -- part 5

Closeup of Landsat image showing mud trails
from bottom trawling off the Louisiana coast
A seafood restaurant that I frequent has a weekly "all you can eat" fish and chips special. I usually ordered the haddock, and would joke to a friend who came with me about us "contributing to the extinction of haddock". The last time we went there, we were told that the haddock would not be on the special anymore. This was due to quota reductions -- a Norwegian initiative. Norway is one of the most ecologically-minded countries in the world, but apart from all of that, it is just good business sense for anyone not just out for a quick buck.

The next time I go there, I will order the wild Alaska pollock instead. I could order the Pacific cod, but there are quite a few species commercially posing as cod and I am not fond of all of them so it can be a bit of a gamble. I like Atlantic cod, but it has been mostly "off the menu" in Canada since 1992.

It was a brave move on Canada's part to shut down the 500 year industry, and controversy reigned for quite a while. I wish I could say that the stocks have now been replenished, but there is a long way to go and foreign fishing outside of Canadian waters is not helping. Some countries, it would seem, have a "Damn the future" philosophy. In Canada, it was Newfoundland who suffered the most from the moratorium, but the move did contribute to greater economic diversity for the area and the government certainly encouraged such with various programs.

Overfishing and bottom trawling are two sides of the same coin. Everything is connected. This interconnectivity is the message of James Lovelock's Gaia theory. That it has been promoted from hypothesis to theory is almost a scientific cliché, but it was criticized strongly at first -- perhaps being named after a Greek goddess stimulated some of Richard Dawkin's own memes!

My own problem with the Gaia theory, at least in the popular mind, is that it does not go far enough. While we can intellectually agree that Man is part of the nature of the world, our involvement is mainly seen as affecting the earth's processes rather than being an integral part of them. Most of us still think of ourselves as somewhat separate -- being only part of the system when we do foolish things like pollute or bottom trawl. We are always looking for new solutions to problems. Overfishing is answered by fish-farming. Currently, the quality of farmed fish is not as good as wild, but that we have noticed this means that people are working on ways to improve the situation. Critics have said that the food used to feed farm fish is depleting the oceans in other ways and this is true, however, we really should compare the damage from fish farming with that of bottom trawling, seek the lesser of the two evils on a case by case basis and then seek ways to improve the situation. This is what humans naturally do and we are really part of the system in all of our thoughts and actions -- even if their global impacts are not obvious at first.

I will have more about our role in the system tomorrow, but for now I will leave you with this presentation by Sigourney Weaver on the damage done by bottom trawling:

No comments:

Post a Comment