Wednesday, April 1, 2015

We are approaching the Catholic Holy Day of Good Friday. I still am not sure why they call it good but it represents one of the most famous scenes artists liked to paint of the Last Supper where Jesus sat to dinner with his 12 apostles. For many it represents a night where families get together and remember their faith over a dinner with family and friends eating a variety of fish. Fish that used to be plentiful in our various oceans around the globe. The Bible is full of references to the lonely fishermen. The men are no longer lonely and the oceans are being depleted of fish now.

Currently there are 4,000 industrial fishing boats licensed to fish in the Indian Ocean alone at any given time sweeping up   anything and everything within their reach. Sharks in particular are being harvested for their fins. There is only one small vessel to monitor 460 square miles of water.  The industrial fishing boats are easy to find because they fish and are brightly lit working the ocean 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is always blood on the sides of the boat being washed back into the ocean. The massive boats are built to stay working for up to 6 months at a time using massive freezers for their killed fish.

They use 3,000 feet of nets with 300 hooks on each net. That means that each day just one of the boats can have a million hooks in the water. It is a super effective way to catch practically everything swimming in that section of the ocean at a time. It does not discriminate. It catches everything. Near Madagascar, it is a big problem. Shark fins are valuable. They cut the fins off the shark and throw the fish back in the ocean to drift and die. Selling one ton of fins per month brings in $200,000 in profits. The global market is even worse. It is estimated that 100 million sharks are killed each year. When the sharks go away, everything else seems to change.

Every year a greater proportion of species are collapsing. These boats are very effective in catching fish in huge numbers. They are very unselected. By the middle of this century many species of fish will be depleted. Where is the United Nations to monitor our seas? This murder of our natural resource of fish is happening everywhere including in the United States. Eight years ago red snapper was down in the Gulf of Mexico was down by 97% but in 2007, things thankfully changed. The good thing that happened was a thought out plan called a Catch Share Program. It started with scientists finding out the health of a fish population. Based on that data they then determine what sensitive stocks must be protected so the fish populations can reproduce and thrive.
The remainder of the total catch is then divided up among the fishing community of small boat local fishermen. They own shares like the Stock Market. Over time as the fish population grows and becomes healthier, their shares also appreciate. When they do stock assessments and they see more fish in the ocean, they raise the allowable catch. For a local fisherman a good day years ago was 500 pounds. Now they are catching 10,000 pounds in a day and the fish are healthy and plentiful. Why isn’t this system being implemented around the globe?

Amanda Leland the Oceans Director,   from the Environmental Defense Fund who initiated the Gulf program says, places globally do not have stable governments,  they   don’t have a lot of rules or science. They have no plan to manage their fish populations over the long term. It is in places like Tanzania that need regulations the most. We may have found some solution here on one American shore but if we are truly a world fearless about their religions, how about we save the world so we can practice our religious rituals of fish dinners. 

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