EDFish

Let’s embrace a new narrative for the ocean

Even though the world ocean is beset from every angle by serious threats – from overfishing to pollution, and from habitat loss to climate-driven warming and acidification – our ocean remains an essential life support system for planet Earth. Not only do more than three billion people depend upon the sea as an essential source of protein for their diet, but nearly 1.4 billion of them risk serious health consequences should they lose existing access to fish and other marine products. Recent science has made plain that if current threats continue, the chance for a more stable future becomes increasingly difficult for people and nature together.

Now, two of the world’s leading ocean experts, Dr. Jane Lubchenco and Dr. Steve Gaines have issued a clear call for change in the new edition of Science. For all who care about the future of the sea – and therefore humanity – Drs. Lubchenco and Gaines call on us to band together to ensure that the world ocean retains its vibrancy and potential, despite this uncertain future. Read More »

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Are plastic eating bacteria the solution to ocean pollution? Science shows it’s not that simple

Recent reporting on the discovery and enhancement of plastic-dissolving enzymes in bacteria made me stop and think about what this might mean for the plastic pollution problem that is plaguing the oceans, including the world’s coral reefs.

While this development is interesting, and draws necessary focus to the immense problem of plastic pollution in the ocean, it is premature to guess whether these kinds of enzymes might provide an effective “silver bullet” for treating plastics floating in the five great gyres of the sea.

There is so much more we need to understand about the complex relationships between plastics and marine ecosystems before we can take draconian action. In other words, it’s too soon to start spraying the ocean with so-called plastic-eating bacteria. Read More »

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How getting fishing right can help protect threatened ocean wildlife

It’s safe to say that a wide range of people are passionate about protecting the wild and wonderful creatures of the sea.  My most moving underwater experience – during twenty years and more than 1,200 scuba dives – was a prolonged close encounter off St. Croix, in the US Virgin Islands, with a juvenile humpback whale, which kept coming back to interact intimately with our small group, again and again.  I will never forget that gift from the sea, and have dedicated my career as a marine scientist to protecting ocean ecosystems and the people who depend on them. Read More »

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New research quantifies growing threat plastics pose to coral reefs

Alamy Richard Whitcombe

Plastic waste in the ocean poses a wholly unexpected and serious threat to coral reefs.  The results from new research published in Science are sobering, but there is hope if we act now to mitigate the most significant threats facing corals and the vulnerable communities who depend on healthy coastal ecosystems for food and livelihoods.

As one of the co-authors, I was greatly surprised at the elevated risk of disease to corals caused by plastic: from 4% in corals without plastic, to 89% in corals with plastic.  Given that the study estimated that there are already more than 11 billion plastic items on reefs across the Asia-Pacific region, and that plastic loads in the ocean are expected to grow radically, this is bad news indeed. Read More »

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Empowered fishermen play an important role in reducing seafood waste

Seafood for sale at the Pike's Place Market in Seattle, WA. Photo: Kate Culzoni

Seafood for sale at the Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA. Photo: Kate Culzoni

Squandering ocean fish—an essential living resource—unnecessarily harms not only wild creatures, but also the billions of people around the world dependent upon fish for their food and livelihoods.

A recent report by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future finds that between 2009 and 2013, billions of pounds of seafood is wasted every year in the United States—that’s as much as 47% of all edible seafood going to waste. The waste occurs throughout the seafood supply chain, but also in wild fish discarded at sea, sometimes called “bycatch” or “discards.” Fortunately, there are good answers to the bycatch part of this challenge.

Proven solutions exist to reduce wasted fish in the form of bycatch and discards. When fishermen are empowered with sustainable management, they are able to focus on gear and harvesting innovations that target only the fish they want to catch.

In fact, catch shares, a proven tool that aligns environmental and economic incentives for fishermen, save enough fish from being discarded to feed 17 million Americans their seafood for an entire year. Read More »

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New study concludes that catch shares are working for fishermen in the U.S.

iStock_000014104307MediumThe good news keeps rolling in about the performance of fisheries managed with secure fishing rights – called “catch shares” in the United States.

An important, detailed analysis of all 20 US catch-share fisheries, authored by scientists and economists of NOAA’s Office of Science and Technology and six regional fisheries science centers, was just issued in the journal, Marine Policy.

The bottom line is that the 13 well-studied catch shares show strong performance, with important increases in an index that adds together a wide array of economic productivity elements and that takes into account changes in relative fish abundance.  Even in just the first three years, that index gains an average of 22% versus baseline years (see Table 7).  For the six longest-established catch shares, the index is an average of 77% higher after the third year, with no increase lower than 14% (see Table 8). Read More »

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