Chapter 4: WHALING AND FISHING
Types of Whale
History of Whaling
International Whaling Commission
Moratorium on commercial whaling
Recovery of some populations
Revised Management Procedure
Loopholes in the IWC Moratorium
Norway's Minke Whale Hunt
U. S. Statutes Supporting IWC Decisions
The Antarctic Sanctuary
Cruelty in Whaling
Whaling for Subsistence
Laws Protecting Marine Mammals
Registered UCI students: view the slide show for the first part of this chapter or download it: http://darwin.bio.uci.edu:80/~sustain/protected/Chap4aslides.ppt
Registered UCI students: view the slide show for the second part of this chapter or download it: http://darwin.bio.uci.edu:80/~sustain/protected/Chap4bslides.ppt
Overexploitation has been
responsible for catastrophic depletion of resources in both the whaling and
reference on cetaceans
One of the worst examples
of wildlife exploitation in the history of the world is provided by the whaling
industry. So far, no species of whale has gone extinct because of whaling, but
many species have been reduced to "commercial extinction" (too rare to
be worth hunting), and many local populations, or "stocks", have been
There are two major types
of whale: Visit Richard Ellis' Art
Gallery for an appreciation of the diversity of these animals.
The baleen whales, that feed on swarms of shrimp-like crustaceans called krill, by straining the sea water through long, fringed baleen plates that hang down from the roof of a cavernous mouth. Baleen provided a strong, flexible material (similar to plastic) which was used for corset stays, horse whips and other applications. These whales were hunted for their baleen as well as for their meat, which was either eaten or made into oil.
Whaling started in the
first few centuries A.D. by the Japanese,
and between about 800 and 1000 A.D. by the Norwegians and by the Basque people
living on the north coast of France and Spain. The Dutch, British and Americans
started in the 17th century. All of this early whaling was done from small boats
using hand-thrown harpoons. Most of the whalers hunted the slow and docile Northern
Right Whale, so named because it was the "right whale" to hunt.
The Europeans wanted the whales for their oil and for their baleen. The Japanese
ate the meat, and found uses for many other parts of the whale. Only about 300
right whales survive in the North Atlantic and 250 in the North Pacific Ocean,
and the species is showing no signs of recovery. In February 2002, the
National Marine Fisheries Service refused
to designate Critical Habitat for this species, claiming that not enough
information was available. Many of
the deaths of these animals occur by collisions with ships, and special
methods are being tested to help avoid these accidents. The Southern
Right Whale, a separate species, is doing better with about 7,500 individuals.
A species related to the Right Whale, the Bowhead Whale, was hunted to extinction in the Atlantic Ocean but still exists in the North Pacific. The stock is still small (7,500), but still hunted every year (quota of 67/year) by Alaskan Eskimos. However, at its 2002 meeting the IWC rejected the U.S. request to continue this hunt.
The American whalers also hunted the Sperm whale (made famous in Herman Melville's classic novel "Moby Dick"), first in the Atlantic from bases in New England, later in the Pacific from bases in Hawaii. Sperm whales feed on giant squid deep in the ocean, including species that have never been seen alive. The population estimates released in 2002 show only 360,000 sperm whalesin the world's oceans, in contrast with previous estimates suggesting 1.5-2 million.
The whalers also hunted the California
Gray whale in the lagoons of Baja California, where they go to breed, and
from 16 shore stations along the coast of California. The California Gray
Whale is a specialized baleen whale: it sucks mud from the ocean bottom (in
the Bering and Chukchi Seas north and west of Alaska) through one side of the
mouth, and filters crustaceans called amphipods from the mud using short baleen
plates. The California Gray whale was hunted almost to extinction in the
late 1800's, then recovered, was hunted almost to extinction again by factory
ships in the 1930's and 1940's, and recovered again. Today the species is up to
pre-exploitation levels (about 26,000) and has been removed from the endangered
Modern whaling began in
1868, when the harpoon gun and explosive harpoon (which explodes inside the
whale) were invented. The harpoon guns were mounted on fast steam-driven
vessels, making it possible to catch the faster-swimming rorquals (blue,
fin, Sei, and Minke whales). The development of factory ships made it possible
for the whalers to stay at sea for long periods, increasing the number of whales
they could hunt.
Whaling has been regulated
by the International
Whaling Commission (IWC) since 1946. The IWC gave its member nations quotas
on the whales they wanted to hunt, based on negotiations and guesswork. The
quotas were always too high, so the populations declined rapidly. After the
biggest whales (blues) were hunted to the point that they were too hard to find,
the whalers went on to the next largest species, the fin whale. Then they moved
on to the Sei whale, then the Minke. Humpbacks were also taken. Chart shows take
by species. Humpback, blue, fin, Sei whale were hunted down to a small
percentage of their original populations.
The IWC is open to
non-whaling nations as well as whaling nations. The non-whaling nations
gradually added to their numbers on the Commission,
eventually turning it from a whalers' club into a conservation-minded
organization. As a result, in 1982 the IWC was able to adopt a resolution
calling for an indefinite moratorium
on commercial whaling, which became effective in 1986.
International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling
Controversy swells around whaling commission meeting - 6-29-2000 Resolutions of the 2000 Meeting of the International Whaling Commission
The IWC moratorium meant
the end of most commercial whaling. As a result, many species seem to be
recovering, at least in some parts of their range. In addition to Gray whales,
Blue and Humpback whales are being seen in increasing numbers off the coast of
estimates, California coast to 300 miles
Except for North Atlantic
right whales and southern blue whales, most stocks seem to be increasing
(Schmidt, 1994). Even bowhead whales, one of the most depleted species, seem to
be on the increase (7500, up from 1500 in 1976). North
Atlantic humpback whales were estimated at 11,000 animals in 2000, compared
with 5,505 in the 1980s. An additional
humpback whale breeding area was discovered off the coast of Africa in 1999.
Humpback whales in Australian waters have recovered so well that the Australian
government is removing them from the national endangered species list.
The North Atlantic right
whale population appears to be in serious trouble; only
two females with calves were spotted off the coast of Georgia and north
Florida in 1999, compared to 17 calves born in 1997 and 6 in 1998. This
has raised fears that the population may be disappearing.
Increased population sizes
can be a mixed blessing for the whales. In 1993, the IWC Scientific Committee,
noting that the Minke
whale population was up to 900,000, concluded that it could now support
commercial whaling. There was strong opposition from conservation-minded
countries, and the IWC did not accept this recommendation, causing the
Scientific Committee chairman to resign. Some
of the whaling nations are now arguing that they need to use their whaling
fleets to reduce (“cull”)
the Minke population in order to allow other species of whales and fish to
In 1994 the IWC approved a
Revised Management Procedure which will allow the reintroduction of commercial
whaling as stocks increase to certain threshold levels (54% of pre-exploitation
levels). A special
meeting of the IWC was convened in 2001 to consider reintroduction of
commercial whaling, but it ended in a stalemate.
There are also some
loopholes in the IWC Moratorium. First, compliance with the moratorium is voluntary:
any IWC member country can file a protest of the moratorium, and then need not
abide by it: Norway is hunting Minke whales in the North Atlantic under such a
protest. Second, there are exceptions for "aboriginal whaling";
the American Eskimos are still allowed to hunt the bowhead whale and the gray
whale, and the Russians are allowed to take 100-200 gray whales to serve to
their northern aboriginals. Third, whaling "for scientific research"
is still allowed.
Japan has continued and
expanded its whaling activities in spite of intense international pressure to
abide by the moratorium. In July 2000 Japan expanded its "research
program" to include permits for 50 Bryde's and ten sperm whales in the
North Pacific, along with its usual quota of 100 minke whales. In 2001 the fleet
its quota with 100 minke whales, 50 Bryde's whales, and eight sperm whales.
The Antarctic "research program" involves a quota of 400 minke whales
annually. Although the whaling is carried out by the Japanese
"Institute for Cetacean Research", the meat is sold to wholesalers and
used for school lunches. The US has repeatedly threatened trade
sanctions against Japan and other whaling nations, but has never carried out
the threats, mainly because they violate the principles of the World Trade
Molecular biologists have recently been taking samples of whale meat sold in Japan as kujira or sashimi (Baker and Palumbi, 1994). The only type of whale meat that could have been obtained legally since the moratorium was Minke whale, but using DNA tests the biologists have found samples containing blue whale, humpback whale, fin whale, and dolphin material as well as Minke whale. The assumption being made in plans to reintroduce commercial whaling is that only abundant species will be exploited and that rare species will be protected. But these new results show that legal whaling could easily serve as a cover for marketing the meat from illegally captured endangered species. A proposal has been made by Norway to establish a control system to detect illegal whale products. DNA samples would be taken from each animal, a set of sequence characteristics determined and entered into a public database. Samples from whale meat found in the marketplace could be analyzed and this would provide information about its origin. Not only species and stock, but even the individual whale can be identified this way.
The samples collected in Japan were also analyzed for contamination, and over half of them contained levels of mercury, PCBs, and DDT that made them unfit for human consumption. Since whales are at the top of the food chain, live long lives and have extensive fat stores, they show a high level of bioaccumulation of stable organic materials like pesticides.
planning new commercial whaling operations, Director says
More whales killed by Japan - 9-20-2000
WWF says Japanese killed 440 more minke whales
Ireland to urge ban on research whaling
Japan: Tokyo persists with bid to lift whaling ban
Japan, three other nations to set-up whale committee
Japan to defend ``research'' whaling at IWC meet
Another major problem in
protecting whale species has been illegal
whaling, which can often go undetected for many years. It was recently
reported that the Soviet whaling fleet, operating from 1948 to 1973 in the
southern hemisphere, reported taking 2,710 humpback whales but actually took
over 48,000. In some cases they built ships with false bottoms so they could
carry a lot more cargo than the inspectors could see. This illegal hunting makes
management plans ineffective and is probably responsible for the failure of many
humpback whale stocks and of the entire blue whale population in the southern
hemisphere to recover.
Norway is continuing
commercial whaling in defiance of the moratorium, taking about 600 Minke whales
per year out of the North-East Atlantic population that has been estimated by
the Scientific Committee of the IWC (May 1996) at 112,000. There are an
estimated 750,000 Minkes in the Antarctic, so the species as a whole is in good
shape; but the North Atlantic population is genetically distinct from the
Antarctic one (by DNA tests).
When Norway announced its
decision to resume commercial whaling at the 1992 IWC meeting, 17 nations signed
a statement condemning it. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has
deliberately sunk two of the Norwegian ships that were participating in the
Minke hunt. The IWC has repeatedly called on Norway to halt its whaling
activities, but Norway continues to set itself a quota (549 animals for the year
2001). In the 1997 season Norwegian whalers in 31 vessels killed 503 Minke
whales of their 580-whale quota. This produced an estimated 730 tons of
meat valued at about $2.9 million. Norway hunts Minke whales only for
their meat, but in Jan. 2000 they announced that they will start exporting other
whale products (mainly blubber) to Japan.
In 1999, Iceland
also made plans to resume commercial whaling.
The Minke whale issue
illustrates a fundamental difference in approaches to conservation: Japan,
Norway and Iceland want to resume commercial whaling under the rules of the
Revised Management Scheme, which was established to allow scientific information
on population sizes to guide the assignment of whaling quotas. But the IWC
has repeatedly refused to approve resumption of commercial whaling, even under
the Revised Management Scheme. This is because the delegations from
several powerful non-whaling nations, following public opinion in their own
countries, are opposed to commercial whaling even if it does not threaten the
The IWC has no enforcement
powers, but individual nations can take action. According to the
Packwood/Magnuson and Pelly Amendments to the Fishermen's Protective Act, the
U.S. Government must invoke sanctions against any nation that undermines
the authority of the IWC. These sanctions could be effective, since they would
prevent Norway from fishing in U.S. territorial waters and from selling fish
products in this country (worth $200 million per year). President Clinton has
refused to implement the law against Norway, possibly because Norway could
easily retaliate by refusing exploration licenses to U.S. oil companies.
In 1994 the IWC was
successful in setting aside a huge area around Antarctica as a Southern Ocean
Sanctuary, which should protect the major feeding areas of about 90% of the
world's whales. The proposal passed by a vote of 23-1. Japan cast
the single opposing vote, and has continued to hunt about 400 Minke whales/year
in the Sanctuary for its "research" whaling program. This is
allowed because under IWC rules, a sanctuary can remain open to whaling by any
nation that lodges an objection.
South Pacific Nations have
repeatedly proposed that an additional South
Pacific Whale Sanctuary be established to extend the Southern Ocean
Sanctuary to include the warmer ocean where many of the great whales breed.
Unfortunately, the proposal failed
to reach the required three-quarters majority due to votes cast against it by
nations that were promised development aid by Japan. But individual island
nations can take action to protect large expanses of ocean. For example,
in 2001 The Cook Islands Government established a whale sanctuary throughout its
Exclusive Economic Zone, providing protection for two million sq. km. of the
central South Pacific Ocean.
One of the most important
issues at recent meetings of the IWC has been an attempt, by the U.S. and other
nations, to have the IWC regulate the catch of small cetaceans - mainly dolphins
and porpoises. This is an urgent issue now as Japan has been killing so many
dolphins for meat that some species are threatened. In 1988, 39,000 Dall's
porpoise were taken by Japan, and in 1989 31,475 were taken -out of a total
stock of 105,000! The meat is being used as a supplement to whale meat. 12,396
Dall's porpoise were killed by the Japanese in 1995 and 18,000
in 1998. In 1999, Japan
agreed to buy 200 tons of meat and blubber from Russian beluga whales (white
whales), potentially launching the first-ever international commercial hunt of
The whaling industry
concerns itself only with whales as populations and as exploitable resources.
Many conservation organizations oppose whaling because they don't want to see
any more whale stocks driven to extinction. In addition, many anti-cruelty
organizations and individuals oppose all kinds of whaling (commercial,
subsistence, and scientific) because of the cruel methods used to kill whales
(either explosive harpoons or "cold" harpoons).
statutes allow exemptions for small-scale whaling carried on by traditional
methods for subsistence purposes. The IWC is allowing the following:
(taken by Alaskan Eskimos
and native peoples of Chukotka):
"The total number of landed whales for the years 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002 shall not exceed 280 whales, with no more than 67 whales struck in any year (up to 15 unused strikes may be carried
over each year)." The request to renew this quota was rejected by the IWC in 2002.
(taken by those whose
"traditional, aboriginal and subsistence needs have been recognized"):
"A total catch of 620 whales is allowed for the years 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002 with a maximum of 140 in any one year."
(taken by Greenlanders):
"An annual catch of 19 whales is allowed for the years 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002."
(taken by Greenlanders):
"The annual number of whales struck for the years 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002, shall not exceed 175 (up to 15 unused strikes may be carried over each year). "
(taken by Greenlanders):
"An annual catch of 12 whales is allowed for the years 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002 (up to 3 unused strikes may be carried over each year)."
(taken by St Vincent and
"for the seasons 1996/97 to 1998/99, the annual catch shall not exceed two whales."
However, it is sometimes
difficult to be sure that the activity fits the definition; for example,
Siberian whalers are allowed to hunt gray whales, but much of the whale meat is
used to feed foxes that are bred for their furs in a commercial operation.
At the 1997 IWC meeting, the U.S. government presented a request by the Makah Indian Tribe, who live on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, to start hunting gray whales "for cultural uses and subsistence needs". This would be the first Makah whaling activity in 70 years. There was tremendous resistance to this proposal, since the IWC usually allows subsistence quotas only for groups whose traditional aboriginal subsistence and cultural needs have been recognized, and this is not the case with the Makah. The U.S. ultimately won approval for the tribe to take up to five whales per year for five years, by incorporating the request into a joint U.S.-Russian proposal to allow aboriginal peoples to take 620 gray whales in the next five years in the North Pacific. The Russian part is on behalf of the Chukotka people in the far north-east of Siberia, whose subsistence and cultural needs have been recognized. But in December 2002 a federal appeals court ruled that the hunt violates the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and ordered it to stop until the federal government completes a comprehensive environmental impact analysis. The ruling came in response to a legal challenge by The Fund for Animals, The Humane Society of the United States, and others.
A coalition of
conservation groups in 2001 petitioned
the National Marine Fisheries Service to relist the gray whale as an endangered
or threatened species, based on threats both to the species and its environment
(it was taken off the endangered species list in 1994 because it's population
had recovered so well). The threats include: a decline in benthic
amphipods - the gray whale's primary food supply - due to climatic changes,
direct damage by bottom trawling and contamination; lack of adequate regulatory
mechanisms to protect the whale and it habitat; and aboriginal whaling.
North Alliance was organized to "defend the right of coastal
communities to utilize marine mammals sustainably". Their web site presents
some lively debate on many aspects of the whaling question. You can add your
comments to their site.
International Whaling Commission, 2002 meeting| High North Alliance @ the 54th annual IWC meeting 2002
The Arctic nations are
especially affected by the IWC moratorium, because their economies are largely
dependent on harvesting of marine resources. Partly because the IWC
remains opposed to commercial whaling, in 1992 the North
Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission was established by Norway, Iceland,
Greenland and the Faroe Islands. It emphasizes management - a
euphemism for hunting - of marine mammal populations in the region (this was the
original purpose of IWC!). It differs from the IWC in covering all marine
mammals in the region (whales, dolphins, seals and walruses), and in trying to
understand the role of marine mammals in the entire ecosystem.
book: Greenlanders, Whales, and Whaling: Sustainability and
Self-Determination in the Arctic by Richard A. Caulfield. 1997,
Dartmouth College; 224 pages.
porpoises, seals and sea lions receive protection in the U.S. under the Marine
Mammal Protection Act of 1972. In passing this legislation, Congress
found that (quote):
|certain species and population stocks of marine mammals are, or may be, in danger of extinction or depletion as a result of man's activities;|
|such species and population stocks should not be permitted to diminish beyond the point at which they cease to be a significant functioning element in the ecosystem of which they are a part, and, consistent with this major objective, they should not be permitted to diminish below their optimum sustainable population level;|
|measures should be taken immediately to replenish any species or population stock which has diminished below its optimum sustainable level;|
|there is inadequate knowledge of the ecology and population dynamics of such marine mammals and of the factors which bear upon their ability to reproduce themselves successfully; and|
|marine mammals have proven themselves to be resources of great international significance, aesthetic and recreational as well as economic.|
The MMPA established a
moratorium, with certain exceptions,
on the taking of marine
mammals in U.S. waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas, and on the
importing of marine mammals and marine mammal products into the United
The eleven species of
marine mammals that occur in U.S. waters, including most of the great whales,
also receive protection because they are listed as threatened or endangered
under the Endangered
Read some of the
Aron (former U.S. commissioner of the IWC and a former member of its
Scientific Committee) argues that the whaling moratorium is supported by
"environmental extremists" and that the IWC should allow
whalers and whales to coexist.
Hofmann (wildlife photographer) argues that the article by William
Aron contains misinformation combined with propaganda for whale hunting.
North Alliance defends the right of coastal communities to utilize
marine mammals sustainably.
|Greenpeace, Australia and New Zealand propose a global sanctuary for whales.|
of the rights of the Makah to hunt whales claim that some whale
protection advocates are using racist
|StopWhaleKill.org wants to stop the killing of gray whales by the Makah.|
Then try to decide what
you believe in, and why:
1. Whale stocks are
a renewable resource and should be commercially exploited like any other
2. Whale stocks are
an exploitable resource but should not be exploited now because their population
levels are too low
3. Whale stocks as a
renewable resource but should be exploited only for subsistence purposes
Only traditional techniques should be used
b. Only humane killing techniques, even if this involves non-traditional technology, should be used
c. Only groups that have a long tradition of whaling should be allowed to harvest whales
d. Only groups that depend exclusively on marine resources should be allowed to harvest whales
4. Whales are
special animals that deserve full protection.
They are mammals
b. They are intelligent, sentient beings
c. They are spectacular, interesting products of millions of years of evolution
5. Whales should be
protected because we should not exploit any wild animal populations.
AND: How should whaling
policies be developed and enforced?
1. By individual nations
2. By international agreements
Research Institute Home Page
Whales With DNA
of Protected Resources Cetaceans Home Page
and Dolphin Adoption Project Home Page
Whale Research Lab, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada
for Facts-River Dolphins
Baiji Dolphin PHVA
The fishing industry has
over-exploited its resources even more than the whaling industry.
One of the first examples
was the California
sardine fishery, which was ruined by overfishing. In the 1936-37 season, 3/4
million tons were taken in California waters, and in subsequent years the fleet
was enlarged as the catch per boat began to drop. The fishing fleet ignored
advice from biologists and carried on fishing at too high a rate. By 1957-58 the
catch was only 17 tons. The fishery never recovered. Its monument is Cannery row
The Peruvian anchovy
fishery was another early example, which boomed in the 1960's and collapsed in
There are many more
recent examples of overfishing. The fishing industry has vastly increased
in scale - the number of large ships fishing the world's oceans increased from
585,000 to 1.2 million during the 1970s and 1980s. It has also increased
in "efficiency" by developing new technologies.
In spite of many fisheries collapsing, the total fish harvest on earth kept
increasing until the early 1990's.
In spite of many fisheries collapsing, the total fish harvest on earth kept increasing until the early 1990's.
Early trawling techniques
allowed sufficient fish to escape that the populations survived. But the
industry has devised new, more "efficient" kinds of nets. For example,
in 1966 the Norwegian fishing industry brought the purse seine net to the North
Sea and they were able to gather unprecedented hauls of herring including
smaller fish than were being taken by the trawl nets used by British fisherman.
Between 1966 and 1970 herring catches dropped from 1.7 million tons to 20,000
tons, a nearly 100-fold reduction. This was the end of the coastal herring
industry in Great Britain.
"improvements" include factory ships and sonar
"fish-finders". Fishermen even use helicopters to locate fish.
"improvements" include factory ships and sonar
"fish-finders". Fishermen even use helicopters to locate fish.
The total U.S. fish harvest (i.e. from the Exclusive Economic Zone of the U.S.) increased more than 300% from 1.56 billion pounds in 1977 to a peak of 6.65 billion pounds in 1986-1988. This was largely due to a change in regulations that gave the domestic fleets a bigger share of the catch during this time. The total subsequently declined to 6.32 billion pounds in 1993. The largest offshore fisheries, in terms of volume landed, are now Alaska Pollock (catch worth $337 million in 1993) and Gulf of Mexico shrimp (catch worth $190 million in 1993).
The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) monitors the status of 959 fish populations. In the 2001 NMFS report to Congress, 93 stocks are reported to be overfished, 163 are reported to be healthy, and the status of 655 is unknown. West Coast groundfish populations and South Atlantic fisheries showed an increase in the number of populations at risk, and highly migratory species of sharks, tunas and billfish continued to show no improvement in status, with 29 of 37 monitored species considered at risk. The NMFS report does indicate that the size of many protected stocks is increasing.
Many other marine
fisheries have also wiped themselves out, or are currently doing so. The European
Union has reduced many of the 1999 catch quotas around its coasts to try to
protect dwindling stocks. As fish prices are driven up by scarcity of the
product, illegal fishing is starting to endanger several species, such as the Chilean
Sustaining Marine Fisheries (1999)
The state of world fisheries and aquaculture (2000)
The Canadian province of
Newfoundland has, for centuries, based its economy on an incredibly productive Atlantic
Cod fishery. Filet o'fish at MacDonalds, and most of the fish used in fish
and chips originally came from this fishery. In the 1960's, fishing fleets from
14 other countries were converging on the cod fishing grounds of the Grand
Banks, and using enormous purse-seine nets and electronic fish-finders they were
harvesting 800,000 tons of fish per year - three times the annual average from
the previous century. In 1977, Canada and the U.S. declared a 200-mile exclusive
economic zone around their shores, partly to keep out the foreign fishing
fleets. But then Canada started heavily subsidizing its own cod fishery in order
to stimulate the economy of Newfoundland, even setting up new corporations to
duplicate the large-scale foreign fisheries that they had just thrown out.
Within a few years, the fish were becoming scarcer and in 1992 their population
was at the lowest level ever recorded. The Minister of Fisheries announced that
the Newfoundland cod population had reached commercial extinction, and
ordered a moratorium on the fishery. This put 25,000 people out of work and put
the local economy into a tailspin. This is one of many cases where a government
subsidy encourages exploitation of a natural resource, eventually having the
opposite effect to what was intended. What's
The New England fishery
has also gone into decline after decades of overfishing despite warnings from
fisheries biologists. In 1994 three depleted fishing grounds, totaling 6,600
square miles and including part of Georges'
Bank, around New England were closed to allow the stocks of cod, haddock and
flounder to recover. NMFS'
2002 report shows that this has been successful in allowing some recovery of
flounder and haddock populations on Georges Bank. In January 1998, the federal government paid New England fishermen
million to take 78 fishing vessels out of commission, reducing their fishing
capacity by about 20%.
On Dec. 3, 1998, the New England Fishery Management
Council reported that the cod stock in the Gulf of Maine was continuing its
rapid decline and recommended that the catch be reduced by more than 80%.
On Dec. 3, 1998, the New England Fishery Management Council reported that the cod stock in the Gulf of Maine was continuing its rapid decline and recommended that the catch be reduced by more than 80%.
Deep water fish
populations in the North Sea and the West of Scotland have also been depleted so
much that the European
Commission is proposing to limit catches.
Vice President Al Gore Announces $5 Million in Disaster Relief for New England
Similar fish species in
the Pacific Northwest (mainly cod, hake and pollock) are also in trouble. The
catch in 1994 was the lowest in 55 years.
North Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
is one of the largest (1,500lb) and fastest (55mph) fish in the sea. It
was for many years (until the 1960's) considered a sport fish, and sold for
about 7 cents a pound to be used mainly as cat food. But in the 1980's the
wholesalers on the east coast started putting the fish on ice and air-freighting
them to Japan to be used in sushi and sashimi. A single 715 pound fish once sold
at a Tokyo market for $67,500 - $94.40 a pound! But its numbers plummeted from
over 200,000 in 1970 to an estimated 30,000 in 1990. The fishery has been
regulated by a quota system since 1981, but the numbers are still declining. Because of the extremely high value of
this fish, it will probably be hunted to extinction.
Australia, New Zealand and Japan are at loggerheads over the harvesting of Southern Bluefin Tuna, which has also dropped to less that 10% of its former numbers.
Swordfish in the Atlantic
have declined by almost 70 percent. This is mainly due to overfishing using
"long lines" - monofilament lines up to 30 to 70 miles long, baited
with thousands of hooks. These lines catch young as well as adult fish, and this
is preventing the population from recovering. The average size of fish landed
has declined to 90 pounds compared with 266 pounds thirty years ago. The
lines also catch non-target species including sharks and turtles, contributing
to their decline. Atlantic swordfish could be commercially extinct in 10
years if it continues to decline at the present rate. 27 Chefs in New York City
recently (February 1998) started a "Give Swordfish a Break" campaign
and refused to serve the fish in their restaurants. Despite the stock
reductions, catch quotas for Atlantic tuna and swordfish were increased
in late 1998 to take advantage of high demand from Japanese sushi markets. The
International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) has
reduced the management goals of its recovery plan in order to allow the
Shark fishing was done mainly for sport up until about 1970, then in 1976 there was a nationwide campaign to market shark as a cheap alternative to swordfish, then it became big business. By 1979 more than 11 million pounds of shark were caught in West coast waters. The industry was built up on thresher shark, and soon other species were added. But the industry reached its peak in the mid-1980's and the catch has plummeted since then - thresher shark catch in 1989 was only 28% of what it was in 1982. These stocks have been seriously depleted in less than two decades, and they will take a long time to recover since sharks are very slow at reproducing (they are not sexually mature until ten years old). Shark stocks in the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean have also been seriously depleted by overfishing. There has been a dramatic increase in worldwide trade in shark products including fins, meat, cartilage and liver oil. Now shark costs as much as swordfish, and the National Marine Fisheries Service has established fishing quotas for 39 species of shark found in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. U.S. federal regulations now prohibit all directed fishing (commercial and recreational) and possession/sale of five shark species: basking, whale, white, sand tiger and bigeye sand tiger from U.S. waters of the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. Many species, including the Great White Shark, are listed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as vulnerable to extinction.
Harvesting of swordfish,
sharks, billfish, and tunas in the Atlantic is regulated by the International
Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). The Commission sets
quotas for its member nations. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations in Oct 1998 adopted an International
Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks. The plan
establishes measures for the conservation of sharks and shark-like species
(skates and rays) at the national, regional and global levels, calling for
national shark management plans by early in the year 2001.
Protection call for 'gentle giant'
There are 27 species
the famous fish whose eggs provide caviar
worth up to $1,000 per pound, and all of them are in serious trouble. In spite
of increased fishing effort, the total catch dropped from 22,000 tons in the
late 1970s to about 1,100 tons in the late 1990s due to the rapid decline of
sturgeon populations. At the 1997 meeting of CITES, all 27 species of sturgeon
were listed, either as endangered (Appendix I) or threatened (Appendix II).
They are interesting primitive fishes, and they can get very big. e.g. the
beluga is the biggest freshwater fish in the world, up to 19 feet long and 2,500
pounds. Most of them are also threatened by overfishing, damming,
water diversion, dredging and pollution.
The Alabama sturgeon
was thought to be extinct since it had not been captured since 1985, but a few
years ago one of the fish was caught in the Alabama River. This was an important
find because it means that the fish can now be listed as Endangered, and
dredging of many Alabama rivers will have to be stopped.
To try to prevent the loss
of a crucial population of Pallid sturgeons, 750 captive-bred fish were released
in 1998 into the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Page | The
Sturgeon Family in Iowa | Paddlefish
| Caviar Emptor
There are only a few
examples of recovery of fish populations following overfishing. These
include striped bass on the Atlantic coast, Alaska groundfish, and King and
Spanish Mackerel. Herring in the Northwest Atlantic are now fairly
abundant for the first time since the 1970s, when they were fished to the point
of collapse by Soviet and European fleets. So, not surprisingly, fishing
companies are planning to bring back factory ships and trawlers to work these
stocks, and NMFS is recommending an expanded fishing effort for herring on
Georges Bank to substitute for failed fisheries elsewhere.
It is estimated that
historically, 100 million salmon a year emerged from rivers along the coasts of
California, Oregon and Washington. Salmon are now extinct in Southern
California, and the rest of the region produces about 15 million a year, mostly
from hatcheries. Commercial landings of all species of salmon in the northwest fell
from a 1987-91 average of $126 million to an all-time low of $17 million in
of salmon in hatcheries has often failed to meet goals and is also thought
to have harmful effects on wild populations.
1. 69 dams have been built on the Columbia and its tributaries, making it the most heavily dammed major river in the U.S. Each dam provides a significant barrier to the fishes' migration. Fish ladders work fairly well for the adults swimming upstream, but the young fish, which in the past have been swept downstream by a fast-flowing river, now often get killed in turbines or trapped in reservoirs, where they mature in freshwater and can then never adapt to living in sea water. The federal government uses barges to carry hundreds of thousands of fish downstream, but only a minute fraction are expected to make it back up the river. The Columbia River Alliance offers weekly updates on developments affecting operation of Federal water projects on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Breaching the four lower Snake River dams has been proposed as the the best way to restore salmon runs to Idaho, Washington and Oregon.Dam removal is becoming almost commonplace: since 1999 more than 40 have been removed in the U.S., and 40 more are slated for removal in 2001.
2. Degradation of spawning streams by roads, development, logging and agriculture are also partly to blame.
3. Another major problem with salmon is salmon pirates on the high seas. In 1988 the Alaska Department of Fish and Game was expecting that, of all the pink salmon spawned in Southeast Alaska, 38 million would return. Only 8 million showed up. Since 1985, returns to one hatchery have declined from 11.8% to 0.5%. Steelhead trout fisheries are also being affected.
4. Eight years of below-normal rainfall and sustained El Nino ocean conditions, which seem to reduce the amount of food available for salmon. The El Nino condition in the 1997-1998 season may have major impacts on salmon distribution and migration.
In October 1996 the federal government declared the Coho salmon in eight Northern California counties a threatened species. This decision was prompted by the decline in the naturally spawning population of California Coho to about one percent of its historic size, which was between 200,000 and 500,000 in the 1940s. In April 1997, the coho populations in northern California and southern Oregon were added to the list but the NMFS delayed announcing regulations to protect the fish in order to give the states time to develop habitat conservation plans. Oregon's plan has been completed, but California has yet to develop its coho conservation plan. (See lecture 8, ESA)
Protection of the salmon requires protection of its river habitat, and this means new restrictions on logging, mining, ranching, waste water treatment operations and other activities that could disturb the fish or its spawning grounds. The decision brought an immediate protest from California Governor Wilson, who claimed that a better way of protecting the species and its habitat was through a voluntary alliance between landowners, environmentalists and local governments (as in the Local Communities Conservation Planning Program (NCCP) in Southern California). In winter of 2002, "huge numbers" of Coho were seen returning to spawn in Marin County.
West Coast salmon rules start - 1-8-2001 - ENN.com | The
Columbia & Snake Rivers Campaign -- Action Center
Fights to Restore Atlantic Salmon Runs (Nov-Dec 1998)
National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have
proposed the listing of eight
stocks of Atlantic Salmon.
are now being farmed in large steel/net cages that are moored in various
estuaries and rivers in Norway, Canada, Chile, Spain, Scotland, and Ireland.
Although these activities are often commercially successful, there are many
harmful effects on the wild salmon populations as well as the environment
in general. Salmon diseases can be transmitted to the wild fish,
escapees can introduce foreign genes into the wild population, and the feed and
waste can contribute to water pollution.
Coastal Shelves: Fisheries Impacts
fisheries have also collapsed, including those for blue crabs and oysters in the
Chesapeake Bay, and for lobsters, abalone, squid and sea urchins off the
blue crab fishery in Chesapeake Bay is in decline, although exact numbers are
not available. In 1991, commercial dredgers averaged 10 bushels of crabs
per hour of fishing. In 1995, the average was down to 1.1 bushels.
At the same time the number of commercial crabbing boats has risen from several
to several hundred, as fishermen turn from the declining shad and oyster fishery
concedes to protesting fishermen's demands
Horseshoe Crab was very abundant until the 1990s, when fishermen discovered
a market for the crabs as bait for a growing eel fishery. The numbers on
some of Delaware's beaches where the crabs come ashore to breed are down 90% in
five years. The Atlantic
States Marine Fisheries Commission in 2000 adopted fishing quotas along the
U.S. Atlantic coast to protect these animals. Virginia refused to comply
with its quota, and now faces a complete ban on horseshoe crabbing.
Outdoor Magazine | Horseshoe
crabs to be counted
of the world's shrimp supply is now farmed by aquaculture
in many less developed countries including Thailand, Bangladesh, Honduras,
Guatemala, Ecuador, Mexico and the Philippines. These countries are being
pressured by international financial institutions, including the World Bank, to
convert their natural mangroves and other ecosystems to aquaculture projects.
This is being promoted as a quick, inexpensive and profitable way to increase
earnings from the industrialized world. But it carries an enormous
environmental cost, because the shrimp farms are replacing huge areas of highly
forests, which are coastal ecosystems vital to fish and shorebird
populations and which are very effective barriers against erosion and flooding.
Half of the world's mangrove forests have disappeared, and over half this loss
is due to shrimp aquaculture.
increasing popularity of Calamari among many Pacific-rim countries, squid in the
1990's became California’s “number 1 oceangoing cash crop”. The catch
in 1996 was 175 million pounds, worth $33.5 million. In 1997 the fishing
grounds off the California coast were invaded by fleets from Oregon, Washington
and Alaska, sparking calls from California fishermen for new regulations.
The squid fishery is the last remaining commercial ocean fishery that is
unregulated - there are no limits and no seasons. But in the winter of
1997-98 the yield in California was virtually zero. The fishermen blame
the crash on El nino, which made the coastal waters too warm and drove the squid
to colder, deeper waters that the fishing boats could not reach. Yields of
herring, sea urchin and rockfish also dropped dramatically during this season.
The Governor's Office of Emergency Services in Sacramento requested the federal
government to declare an economic disaster in the state's fishing industry.
species of abalone live off the coast of California, and all of them have been
depleted by overfishing. In fact, the white
abalone, the highly prized and deepest-living species, will probably be the
first invertebrate to be driven to biological extinction through fishing.
After other species living in shallow waters had been depleted by overfishing,
there was a nine-year (1969-77) intense fishery on white abalone. Recent
surveys show that this formerly abundant species is now almost impossible to
find. Only three individuals were found in 3 hectares of prime habitat in
1991-93, where somewhere between 6000 and 30,000 would have been found 20 years
earlier. The animals that have been found are old and probably not
reproducing, so the species seems doomed to extinction in the wild. There
are less than a dozen white abalones in captivity.
Marine Resource Issues - White Abalone
On May 15, 1997, the California Senate voted to impose an indefinite moratorium on harvesting red abalone south of San Francisco. Biologists report the population has declined 75% in the last two decades. Red abalone sell for up to $85 per pound in southern California.
on the High Seas (Abalone as an example)
This large edible marine snail is the target of a large commercial fishery in the Caribbean region, with the U.S. as the largest market for the meat. It has been listed in Appendix II of CITES since 1992. Survival of the species is not considered at risk, but many local populations are threatened and consequently the industry is jeopardized.
chart from National Marine Fisheries Service shows the
decline of the Maryland and Virginia oyster harvests during the past 40 years.
The Chesapeake Bay oyster population is down to 1% of the level a century ago,
due partly to disease but mainly to overfishing. Attempts
are being made to restore this fishery by rebuilding oyster reefs and
seeding them with oyster larvae raised in laboratories.
Loss of oysters means much more bay pollution. They filter out microscopic algae, keeping the water clear. 100 years ago the oyster population could filter the entire bay in 3-4 days. Now it takes the reduced population a year to do the same job. At the same time the algal growth is being stimulated by nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients that are entering the bay from leaky septic tanks, sewage plants and agricultural runoff.
United States exports $50 million worth of mussell shells to Japan each year for
use in the cultured pearl industry. Nearly 70
mussel species are currently endangered.
One of the reason for the
loss of salmon in the Pacific Northwest was that many of the fish were being
caught in high-seas driftnets (a type of gillnet), used to catch squid and
swordfish during the last ~10 years. These nets hang from the surface and reach
down to 40 feet, and stretch for up to 40 miles. The fleet of about 1500 boats
from Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, on any given day could deploy about 25,000
miles of driftnet (enough to go around the entire world). They collected not
only the target species but also thousands of salmon, dolphins, whales,
seabirds, and seals. In a report to the U.N. in 1991, the U.S. reported that one
of the four Japanese squid fisheries (the one operating in the North Pacific)
resulted in the deaths of:
26,000 marine mammals
406 sea turtles
270,000 sea birds
700,000 blue sharks
25,000 non-target squid species
39 million other fish
The use of driftnets has
been called "strip-mining" of the ocean, because of the devastating
effect it has on wildlife. Even worse, an estimated 600 miles of driftnet is
lost every year and becomes a "floating cemetery" of sea life.
Drift netting is the most
destructive and wasteful fishing technique ever invented. It has been banned in
the North Atlantic since the 1970s, when the driftnetters devastated the
Atlantic salmon population. However, in 1991 some Taiwanese driftnetters were
again working in the Atlantic and Caribbean.
on high-seas driftnet fisheries has been in place since 1993 under a United
Nations resolution. Italy is continuing to use driftnets despite the ban.
Act Amendments of 1990, passed into law in 1990, provides for U.S.
compliance with the U.N. resolution and for the imposition of sanctions against
nations that violate it.
after the U.N. resolution, several European countries continued use of drift
nets, but the European
Union instituted a ban
on their use in Atlantic and Mediterranean waters, effective 1 January 2002.
The European Commission also arranged for compensation to alleviate
the economic and social hardship suffered by fishermen and the owners of
fishing vessels as a result of the ban.
example of "incidental take" has been very important over the past 20
years - the killing
of dolphins in the tuna fishery. Tuna in the Eastern Tropical Pacific ocean
swim in large shoals, and for some reason that nobody understands, these shoals
tend to be under herds of dolphin. Therefore, the tuna fishermen discovered that
they can easily find tuna by first finding the dolphin, which are very easy to
spot because they jump out of the water. The tuna are then caught in a
"purse-seine" net, which encircles the fish and is then pulled back on
board the boat, together with both tuna and dolphin. This encirclement method
has resulted in the deaths of more than seven million dolphins in the Eastern
Tropical Pacific Ocean over the past four decades. Eventually, the
mortality was reduced by a "backing down" procedure that allows the
dolphins to be chased out.
the 1990s, dramatic progress was made on forcing the tuna fishery to stop
killing dolphins. In 1990, the U.S. government established regulations so that
tuna caught without killing dolphins could be labeled "dolphin-safe".
The three canners that supply 75% of the tuna bought by consumers in this
country - Starkist, Chicken of the Sea, and Bumble Bee - announced that they
would buy only "dolphin-safe" tuna. This had a profound impact on the
whole industry, since any country that did not use dolphin-safe techniques found
it difficult to sell their product. The U.S. passed laws to embargo tuna that is
not dolphin-safe. Import of tuna from Mexico and Venezuela was prohibited under
of these measures resulted in a substantial lowering of dolphin mortality, even
though about 2,700 dolphins are still being killed each year in this fishery.
in summer 1997, the U.S. House and Senate both passed bills
to repeal these dolphin protection measures, and the embargo has ended. This was
mainly because it was claimed that the U.S. was violating its obligations under
the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) by imposing embargoes on tuna
imports. In January 2000 the U.S. issued an interim
final rule for dolphin-safe tuna that allow encirclement to be used again in
the Eastern Tropical Pacific. If no dolphins are killed or injured by the
encirclement, the tuna can be labeled dolphin-safe.In February 2000, Defenders
of Wildlife, the Humane Society of the U.S. and others filed
suit against the Clinton administration over this rule, claiming that it
violates the 1997 International Dolphin Conservation Program Act (IDCPA).
five species of sea
turtle that spend part of their lives in U.S. waters (loggerhead, green,
leatherback, hawksbill, and Kemp's ridley turtles) are listed as endangered or
threatened under the Endangered Species Act. One of the reasons they are in
trouble is that they are killed incidentally in various commercial
fisheries. In May 1990, the National Academy of Sciences estimated that as
many as 55,000 sea turtles annually drown in American shrimp nets not equipped
excluder device (TED) that allow turtles to escape the trawl net. The TED is
a box-like cage with a trap door, that reduces the turtle kill by shrimp trawls
by 97%. The academy report concluded that incidental drowning in shrimp trawls
"kills more sea turtles than all other human activities combined...".
academy recommended the use of TEDs in "most places at most times of the
year". TED use is presently required for most of the Atlantic and Gulf of
Mexico shrimp fisheries.
For several years, the U.S.
restricted imports of shrimp caught by
foreign fleets not using TEDs. But in April 1998 the World Trade Organization ruled
against the U. S. in a dispute over this practice with Thailand, Malaysia,
Pakistan and India. The U. S. law was challenged on the grounds that it
discriminated against shrimp exports from countries that did not require turtle
protections (this is exactly what it was intended to do!). International
trade rules prohibit countries from making distinctions between products based
on the way they are produced. But the U. S. justified the law under a different
provision that allows restrictions in order to protect human, animal or plant
life. The U.S. appealed the decision, but the appeal was turned down in Oct.
are some encouraging signs: a record
number of Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle nests were found on Mexico’s Gulf
Coast south of Brownsville in the year-2000 nesting season.
Gulf of Mexico shrimp fishery is also very wasteful of other marine life. Shrimp
comprise less than 20% of what is caught in shrimp nets; the rest is other kinds
of fish that are discarded. Bycatch Reduction Devices can reduce this
waste by about half, and now will be required in this fishery.
in other kinds of fishing off South America is causing the deaths of hundreds of
Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles addresses all
the major threats to sea turtle survival, including accidental and intentional
capture, exploitation and habitat destruction. It has been ratified by
seven nations, and will go into effect when a total of eight have signed on.
Catch Summary | Endangered
and Threatened Wildlife; Revised Sea Turtle/Shrimp | Sea
Turtle Survival League
After an estimated 79 sea lions or more had been killed in the Auckland Islands squid fishery off New Zealand in the 2002 season, the fishery was forced to close early.
Nets were installed in 1996 by a Taiwanese fishing fleet
in a pelagic migratory channel at Manado, Indonesia. Between 27 March 1996 and
12 February 1997 the catches included some 1,424 manta rays, 18 whale sharks,
312 other sharks, 4 minke whales, 326 dolphins, 577 pilot whales, 789 marlin, 84
turtles, and 9 dugong. The fishermen report all of these as
"by-catch" but most of the animals were frozen and sent to market.
of the most common fishing methods, bottom
trawling, has the same devastating impact on the ocean bottom as
clearcutting of forests has on the Earth's surface. Trawlers scrape nearly
6 million square miles a year, twice the area of the lower 48 United States, and
this destroys many different ecosystems including seagrass beds, coral reefs,
rocky reefs and cobbles, and kills many non-target fish.
of the birds and mammals that depend on fish for food have declined when
overfishing has depleted their food source. Off the coast of Alaska, the
population of Steller sea lion was estimated at 140,000 in 1960, 68,000 in 1985,
and 25,000 in 1989. Thus the population has declined by 82% since 1960. The
sharpest declines were seen in the Eastern Aleutian Islands, where the count
dropped from 50,000 to 3,000. The declines are spreading to previously stable
areas and are accelerating. They are thought to be due to depletion of the sea
lions' food supply by the Atka Mackerel and Pollock
fishery in the Bering Sea / Gulf of Alaska. Harbor seals are also declining,
probably for the same reason. In 1997 the National Marine Fisheries Service listed
the western Alaska population of Steller sea lions as "endangered,"
with the eastern population (southeastern Alaska to California) remaining
classified as threatened. NMFS has been accused of waffling
on sea lion protection. Steller
sea lions beleaguered by salmon farmers and commercial fisheries
April 1998 Greenpeace, the American Ocean Campaign and the Sierra Club sued the
National Marine Fisheries Service, demanding that the Service take action to
prevent the collapse of the North Pacific ecosystem. The suit reported
that the sea lion and harbor seal populations declined by 85% during the time
that the pollock, mackerel and cod catches in the Bering Sea and the Gulf of
Alaska doubled. In response on June 14, 1998, the North Pacific Fishery
Management Council imposed new catch restrictions on the Atka mackerel fishery,
intending to gradually (over a four-year period) shift 60% of the harvest taken
inside Steller Sea Lion critical habitat to areas outside such habitat.
More recently the fisheries agencies have been developing rules to move more of
fishery out of sea lion habitat as well.
in seabird populations (kittiwakes, boobies, cormorants, pelicans) have also
been blamed on depletion of the fish stocks that they feed on. In 1998,
eleven of the 17 existing penguin
species were listed as threatened with extinction (up from only five species
two years previously), in part because of depletion of anchovies and sardines.
Habitat destruction and oil spills are also threats to these birds.
has led to the depletion of food supplies for other fish as well as marine
mammals and turtles in many areas of the world. A recent and dramatic
example is in the ocean surrounding the Aleutian Islands, a long island chain
that separates the Pacific Ocean from the Bering Sea. In the 1980s, this was the
main home for sea otters, supporting about 100,000 of the mammals which was
about 80% of the world's population. But Between 1992 and 2000, the
population dropped by 70 percent, and in 2000 the numbers were down to only
sharp decline in Alaska Sea Otters is just one part of a catastrophic ecosystem
collapse that is occurring in the area. The chain of effects seems to
commercial fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska (Bering Sea Pollock is now the
primary food fish in the world market, used for fish sticks, imitation crab meat
and fillets all over the world.
•Decline in Steller sea lions (80% drop in past 30 years) and harbor seals (usual food of Killer whales)
•Increased predation on Sea Otters by Killer Whales (over 40,000 eaten in the period 1990-1998),
•Population explosion of sea urchins (usual food of sea otters)
•Depletion of kelp beds (food of sea urchins)
•Depletion of king crabs, shrimp, smelt
•Less food for seals and sea lions
studies, based on data from paleontology, archeology, history, and ecology,
indicate that overfishing in prehistoric as well as historic times has led to
collapses in many other coastal regions of the world. The authors
argue that these ecosystems originally supported enormous numbers of top
predators such as whales, sea lions, sea turtles, and birds, and that ecosystem
collapse caused by overharvesting has left them with a minute fraction of the
former abundance of these animals. Some examples:
|Kelp Forests off the coasts of Alaska, Southern California and the Gulf of Maine. The Alaska and Southern California coastlines once supported huge kelp forests, providing food for sea urchins that were fed upon by hundreds of thousands of sea otters and other predators. Overharvesting of the sea otters by native people and then by European hunters, followed by overfishing of other sea urchin predators (sheephead fish and spiny lobsters), and competitors (abalone), led to a population explosion of sea urchins and this reduced the kelp forest and the ecosystem it supports to a small remnant of its former size. In the gulf of Maine a similar collapse occurred, but in that area the main sea urchin predator removed by human overharvesting was cod rather than sea otters.|
|The Great Barrier Reef. On the Great Barrier Reef, huge population explosions of crown-of-thorns starfish has led to massive mortality of coral, and these population explosions may be related to overharvesting of predators.|
|The Chesapeake Bay once featured huge oyster beds, so thick that they were a navigational hazard. Oysters are filter feeders, and they once filtered the Bay's waters so effectively that it was crystal clear. The oysters were overharvested and now the bay is murky and chemically changed, with frequent harmful algal blooms. This led to other ecological changes and the loss of many predators that were once abundant including Gray whales (now extinct in the Atlantic Ocean generally), dolphins, manatees, river otters, sea turtles, alligators, giant sturgeon, sheepshead fish, sharks, and rays, all of which were abundant inhabitants of Chesapeake Bay.|
November 1998, the United Nations Food
and Agriculture Organization adopted
a series of measures to monitor and manage the world's fishing fleets. The
measures include regular assessments of harvesting capacity, maintaining better
records of fishing fleets, establishing national capacity management plans, and
reducing or eliminating subsidies that contribute to the build-up of fishing
plan for sustainable fisheries, ENN Daily News -- 3/16/99
in the U.S. are regulated by the National
Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). One of the main statutes administered
by them is the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976.
This brought all fisheries resources within 200 miles of all U.S. coasts
(subsequently covered by the Exclusive Economic Zone) under Federal
jurisdiction. Eight Regional Fishery Management Councils were established for
the New England, Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico,
Pacific, Western Pacific, and North Pacific regions. The eight Councils prepare
fishery management plans (FMPs) that allocate fishing rights, with priority
given to domestic fisheries. NMFS also administers many other statutes
including the Anadromous Fish Conservation Act, the Marine Mammal
Protection Act, and the Endangered Species Act as applied to marine species.
It is also responsible for implementation of international treaties regarding
1996, after years of debate, Congress finally passed legislation to strengthen
conservation measures in the nation's fishing laws. Key improvements include:
Limits to Prevent Overfishing. The new law excludes social and economic factors
from consideration in setting fishing limits. These considerations previously
resulted in fishing levels designed to protect the industry rather than the
fish. The new Act also requires the National Marine Fisheries Service to make an
assessment every year of those fisheries that are overfished or on the verge of
being so. Fishery management plans must include measures to rebuild overfished
Protections for Fish Habitat. Each of the eight Regional Fishery Management
Councils are now required to identify a fishery's essential
habitat, describe the adverse impacts on the habitat and the actions
required to ensure conservation of the habitat. Fishery Management Plans must
minimize adverse impacts to habitat caused by fishing.
in Bycatch. Fishery Management Plans must contain measures to minimize damage to
Management will be improved by the new legislation, but biologists feel that
there are still several pressing problems:
Attention is too often restricted to individual fisheries rather than to entire ecosystems, and predictions therefore fail.There is inadequate funding for enforcement of regulations and for monitoring of fishing operations.
|WHAT CONSUMERS CAN DO (From Time Magazine, Aug. 11, 1997)|
SPARINGLY (if at all)
|OK TO EAT|
(especially shark-fin soup)
Atlantic Striped Bass
Farm-raised Salmon (maybe)
Fisheries Department news
Gadus Associates : Science Serving the Fisheries
SEAArizona's Native Fish at Risk
Gadus Associates : Index to List of Fisheries Sites
Coastal Guide Index
Coastal Guide News
European Union for Coastal Conservation EUCC
Welcome to ENYO WWW Server
Summaries of Major Laws Implemented by the National Marine Fisheries Service
Task Force for Researchers & Managers
North Atlantic Fisheries College
The Management of Fisheries and Marine Ecosystems -- Botsford et al. 277 (5325):509
No-Take' Zones Spark Fisheries Debate by Karen F. Schmidt
Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) Home Page
Leon Spring Pupfish
National Marine Fisheries Service NEFSC Headquarters
Northwest Fisheries Science Center
NOA: northwest region
Requiem for a dying sea
WWW sources for aquaculture, fisheries and aquariums
Marine Fish Conservation Network
Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act Reauthorization
Internet Guide to International Fisheries Law
NOAA Fisheries - National Marine Fisheries Service
International Ocean Governance: Using International Law and Organizations to Manage Marine Resources Sustainably.
Hypertext Book Table of Contents
5: OVEREXPLOITATION THREATENING LIVING SPECIES
Feedback form for questions, comments and suggestions
J. Bryant (email@example.com),
School of Biological Sciences,
University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.
Phone (949) 824-4714 Fax (949) 824-3571
A Project of the Interdisciplinary Minor in Global Sustainability