Part 18: Fishing our oceans to death; surface of a haunted ocean
Oceanographer Callum Roberts said, “The oceans of today are filled with ghost habitats, stripped of their larger inhabitants. Our dismantling of marine ecosystems is having destructive and unpredictable consequences. With species loss and food web collapse comes dangerous instability. The seas are undergoing ecological meltdown.
“Fishing is undermining itself by purging the oceans of species on which it depends. The wholesale removal of marine life and obliteration of their habitats is stripping resilience from ocean ecosystems.
“Moreover, it is undermining the ability of the oceans to support human needs. Overfishing is destabilizing the marine environment, contributing to the spread of anoxic dead zones and the increasing prevalence of toxic algal blooms. Nature’s power to bounce back after catastrophes or absorb the battery of stresses humanity is subjecting it to is being eroded, collapsed fishery after collapsed fishery, species by species, place by place.
“It is easy to point fingers and say this is the fault of greedy corporations with their factory ships, or faint-hearted politicians overeager to please the fishing industry, or the great masses of poor people reduced to bombing and poisoning their seas to extract the last few fish.” —Callum Roberts in The Unnatural History of the Sea
As the human onslaught of the planet accelerates by an added 80,000,000 (million) people, net gain, annually and one billion every 12 years—the natural world staggers back on its heels.
Fully 80 percent of all life on this planet thrives beneath the surface of our oceans. This enormous body of water pulses with life-energy, which drives natural forces that sustain life on this planet. But in the 21st century the “Mob of Humanity” wreaks havoc on the foundation of life on Earth. It hooks, pollutes, skims, nets and daggers untold billions of creatures to death annually.
While Roberts brings his powerful research to the table, most of humankind remains oblivious to catastrophic onslaught raging beneath the waves. As a 50 year scuba diver, I watched it progress from the Gulf of Mexico into all of our oceans.
With America’s 319 million people devouring ocean marine life such as squid, crabs, shrimp, tuna, salmon, flounder, swordfish and so many other species—take a look at what 7.2 billion humans devour worldwide:
Giant ships, using state-of-the-art equipment throw out 50-mile long drift nets that capture 90 million tons of marine life annually. These industrial fishing fleets exceed the ocean’s ecological limits. As larger fish dwindle in numbers, the next smaller fish species are targeted and so on. A Canadian fisheries expert Dr. Daniel Pauly warns that if this continues, “Our children will be eating jellyfish.”
For the past 35 years, humans continue their annihilation of all species of sharks by killing them at a rate of 100 million sharks annually. You must wonder, “How much longer can this kind of a killing spree continue before the sharks and all ocean life reach a point of no return?” (Source: Life Magazine August 1991; Julia Whitty, OneEarth Magazine)
The latest threat grows beyond solving with “carbon footprint” waste from fossil fuel burning at 84,000,000 (million) barrels of oil daily and billions of tons of coal and natural gas annually—to overload our seas with carbon that acidifies the oceans to a point whereby marine life can no longer exist in the toxic ocean water. It would be like you taking a bath in carbonic acid water.
Another aspect of humanity’s “deadly treatment” of our oceans deals with the phenomenon of “dead zones” at the mouths of all our major rivers worldwide. For instance, the Ganges and Yangtze rivers exhaust their toxic sewage waters into the world’s oceans 24/7 to create 20,000 square mile dead zones. The water grows so toxic that higher marine life cannot exist in those zones. In America, the Mississippi River spews chemical waste, petroleum waste and endless sewage waste to create a 10,000 mile square dead zone at its mouth in New Orleans.
WWII major war powers dumped their mustard gas, oil and other chemicals along with radioactive waste into the oceans of the world. Humanity’s 80,000 chemicals always end up in the oceans as their final toilet destination.
Over time, those toxic rivers exhausting out of Europe, Asia, South America, Russia and North America cannot help but toxically contaminate the oceans of the world. That means all the fish in them bear the chemicals they breathe and eat in their daily existence. With the latest Fukushima radioactive waste spill of trillions of gallons of toxic liquids, our oceans cannot help but stagger to keep their “Ph” balance. Fukushima spreading:
When you include the 100 million ton, the size of Texas, (and growing by 2.5 million plastic pieces per hour), “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, which constitutes a floating plastic island and hangs 1,000 miles off San Francisco—you cannot help but understand that we humans desecrate our nest at blinding speed. Soberingly, researchers tell us that 46,000 pieces of plastic float on every square mile of our oceans. Those constitute pretty sickening statistics.
Plastic killing zone at Midway Island:
Do the oceans stand a chance when we remain on course to add another three billion of our species within 36 years by 2050? Answer: not a snowball’s chance in hell!
So when you read a sobering series like this that reports on the underpinnings of humanity’s dilemma, what do you think? What do you do? How do you do it? When do you start?
It’s my contention that environmental leaders and demographic experts rattle the bars, scream at the media and make some noise in every country around the world. Silence won’t cut it fellow humans. You need to engage your courage, your guts, your true grit and your creative energy to move the discussion to the highest levels in the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia and beyond. If the Western world doesn’t address this, no one else will touch it!
Finally, your kids won’t be eating jellyfish; they will choke on seaweed.
Exactly 10 years before, when Newcastle yachtsman Ivan Macfadyen sailed the same course from Melbourne to Osaka, all he’d had to do to catch a fish from the ocean between Brisbane and Japan was throw out a baited line.
“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,” Macfadyen recalled.
But this time, on that whole long leg of sea journey, the total catch was two. No fish. No birds. Hardly a sign of life at all.
“In years gone by, I’d gotten used to all the birds and their noises,” he said.
“They’d be following the boat, sometimes resting on the mast before taking off again. You’d see flocks of them wheeling over the surface of the sea in the distance, feeding on pilchards.”
But in March and April this year (2013), only silence and desolation surrounded his boat, Funnel Web, as it sped across the surface of a haunted ocean.
Frosty Wooldridge is a Population-Immigration-Environmental specialist: speaker at colleges, civic clubs, high schools and conferences. Facebook: Frosty Wooldridge. Facebook Adventure Page: How to Live a Life of Adventure: The Art of Exploring the World. Www.HowToLiveALifeOfAdventure.com. www.frostywooldridge.com.