No more seafood? So what? It was all lousy with mercury anyway.
June 22, 2011 9:35 AM   Subscribe

"Ocean Life on the Brink of Mass Extinctions," warns a new comprehensive study from "a 2011 workshop of ocean experts staged by [International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO)] and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at Oxford University." The most likely culprits in the unfolding, large-scale disaster? Pollution and climate change, say the experts. What else is new, you say? Well, the schedule's been changed up: "Marine life facing mass extinction 'within one human generation,'... says global panel of scientists."

"The panel of 27 scientists, who considered the latest research from all areas of marine science, concluded that a "combination of stressors is creating the conditions associated with every previous major extinction of species in Earth's history". They also concluded:

* The speed and rate of degeneration of the oceans is far faster than anyone has predicted;

* Many of the negative impacts identified are greater than the worst predictions;

* The first steps to globally significant extinction may have already begun."
posted by saulgoodman (116 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
I heard this exact same warning back in the 1970's.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:38 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Kinda puts my debts in perspective.
posted by neuromodulator at 9:38 AM on June 22, 2011


sweet
posted by rebent at 9:39 AM on June 22, 2011


I heard this exact same warning back in the 1970's.

Would you say biodiversity has improved since then?
posted by Trurl at 9:42 AM on June 22, 2011 [33 favorites]


wait, isn't that the title of the book from Soylent Green?
posted by sexyrobot at 9:43 AM on June 22, 2011


Science is going to get defunded if they keep harshing capitalism's high.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:44 AM on June 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


[joke to mask my horror]
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:44 AM on June 22, 2011 [18 favorites]


Would you say biodiversity has improved since then?

Yeah, in fact. Or rather, our knowledge of biodiversity has improved. Since the 1970's the extremophiles were discovered, and in fact found damned near everywhere, for example.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:46 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I heard this exact same warning back in the 1970's.
Citation please. Or did you literally just hearthem? If so, never mind.
That said, the SciAm article is weak not just for not linking to the study (it might be unavailable yet) but for publishing brilliant prose like "a study showed on Tuesday".
posted by hat_eater at 9:47 AM on June 22, 2011


Yeah, in fact. Or rather, our knowledge of biodiversity has improved. Since the 1970's the extremophiles were discovered, and in fact found damned near everywhere, for example.

Extremophiles, yum.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:47 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Extremophiles, yum.

I am pretty sure that is a porn magazine in Germany.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:48 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


> I heard this exact same warning back in the 1970's.

In the 70s they warned us that we'd kill the ocean if we kept this up, and today we have hard evidence that it is dying.

Now, I don't believe that's what you meant at all. What you meant is, "We ignored the warning in 1970 and continued to trash the planet, and look, we're still alive! so caution is completely unnecessary and we can continue to trash the planet indefinitely."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:48 AM on June 22, 2011 [50 favorites]


Survival of the fittest, amirite?
posted by No Robots at 9:50 AM on June 22, 2011


I heard this exact same warning back in the 1970's.

And maybe if you and the rest of your generation had done something then, we might not be where we are today. But species and eco systems don't just stop dying because you stop giving a crap about them. Not that most folks would remember, but the warnings in the 70s originally came with a longer time window, and the predictions for the rate at which the impacts of climate change (for instance) would occur have been pretty steadily consistent with observation. Science has only found that time window for large-scale breakdown to be shortened since then, it has never found it to be extended. Just because scientists were also talking about these emerging issues in the 70s doesn't mean they haven't been continuing unabated all this time.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:50 AM on June 22, 2011 [37 favorites]


Or what lupus_yonderboy said exactly.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:50 AM on June 22, 2011


Why couldn't we have gotten into the habit of bombing and decimating the populations of the earth that pollute the seas and the air? We could be still being lax about pollution for generations if we were the only ones doing it.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:52 AM on June 22, 2011


So long, and thanks for all the fish.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:52 AM on June 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


> I heard this exact same warning back in the 1970's.

I've taken to flagging stupid, glib first comments like this. There's no reason for a dozen people to respond to such blitheness. It's such a piss-poor dialectic to pursue and I wish people like you would think for a moment before unleashing such shallowness.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:53 AM on June 22, 2011 [15 favorites]


> > Would you say biodiversity has improved since then?

> Yeah, in fact. Or rather, our knowledge of biodiversity has improved. Since the 1970's the extremophiles were discovered, and in fact found damned near everywhere, for example.

Those two are not at all the same thing. The fact is that biodiversity has decreased - that by anyone's standards we're in the midst of a huge species die off.

To claim that biodiversity has increased because science has continued to discover new species at a faster rate than we kill them off is.... well, words fail me.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:55 AM on June 22, 2011 [22 favorites]


I'm sure humanity will get around to fixing the roof after the living room gets flooded. But maybe the kitchen is relatively dry and we can move the TV in there.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:55 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


This graphic tells the story.
posted by Eideteker at 9:55 AM on June 22, 2011 [17 favorites]


More about the study and its findings here on the StateoftheOceans.org site.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:58 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't be too horrified. In the very long run mass extinctions are a good thing. If the dinosaurs hadn't died out the mammals would never have risen.

We're going to look back at this in 30 million years as a good thing.

Well, not us, but something will.
posted by Bonzai at 10:00 AM on June 22, 2011 [22 favorites]


Eideteker that graphic is....whoa...really disturbing.
posted by supermedusa at 10:00 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rebut and move on.

The argument that we've heard warnings for years and nothing has happened isn't a completely silly one - I use exactly the same argument against The Rapture every time a date is announced.

Emit a rebuttal, then move on to the next comment. Metacomments are boring!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:00 AM on June 22, 2011


> Ah, it's a real thing. Shit.

Extremophiles are comparatively rare creatures that live in extremes of heat, pressure, pH, radiation or what-have-you - but they have nothing to do with the point, that species are dying everywhere even as we discover new ones.

Unless of course the idea is that there will be a lot more extremophiles because we'll render the oceans uninhabitable for "normal" fish - but that would be a horrible outcome...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:04 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


>In the very long run mass extinctions are a good thing. If the dinosaurs hadn't died out the mammals would never have risen.

Ah, evolutionist salvation. Nothing quite so self-indulgent or inane.
posted by No Robots at 10:04 AM on June 22, 2011


Fish, and plankton. And sea greens, and protein from the sea.
posted by adipocere at 10:04 AM on June 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Unfortunately, there's not much we can really do about saving the fishes. It's a done deal and has been for quite some time.

The only real hope we have is that the very progress that has improved fishing technology, from hunting to husbandry, and the improvements in our understanding of biology in our pursuit of longer life will allow us to repopulate the sea with some sort of crazy homogeneous lifeform that can survive our new living situation and resupply our food stores.

So long as it doesn't develop a taste for man flesh or becomes a fantastic neurotransmitting biomass for a future singularity, I think we'll make it.

Meanwhile, we get to eat soy.
posted by linux at 10:08 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah, evolutionist salvation. Nothing quite so self-indulgent or inane.

inane? Satire.

self-indulgent? Trying to find a way to live with the very real fear of extinction, I guess that is self-indulgent. What would you have me do? What exactly am I supposed to DO with this information?
posted by Bonzai at 10:09 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, there's not much we can really do about saving the fishes. It's a done deal and has been for quite some time.


Aw crap, is this true?
posted by Hoopo at 10:10 AM on June 22, 2011


Hooray, more things to buy. Water, Air, Fish, Basic Proteins, the future will be like living in a mall!
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:13 AM on June 22, 2011


Aw crap, is this true?

At this point, barring massive funding and quick mobilization, yes.
posted by TheMidnightHobo at 10:13 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


>What exactly am I supposed to DO with this information?

You are supposed to act like a goddam scientist. Recognize that it is our paradigm of biology, namely the Theory of Evolution, that gives us carte blanche to destroy life-forms at will. The ecology movement has to specifically, categorically and emphatically repudiate the Theory of Evolution. I'm sorry if that would leave a big hole in your comforting certainties about the nature of life. However, I would think that the least you could do, if you are genuinely concerned, is show some willingness to question these comforting certainties.
posted by No Robots at 10:15 AM on June 22, 2011


> our understanding of biology in our pursuit of longer life will allow us to repopulate the sea with some sort of crazy homogeneous lifeform that can survive our new living situation and resupply our food stores.

I've also had similar thoughts. Ideally, at some point we can reintroduce stocks that are mostly similar to the species that were depleted. That's not to say that the "improvements" made in their genetics wouldn't affect their tastiness, however.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:15 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


*slaps the OVERPOPULATION gong once with a dead trout*
posted by adipocere at 10:20 AM on June 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


That's not to say that the "improvements" made in their genetics wouldn't affect their tastiness, however.

In the future, genetically engineered McFish will be flat and square with a cripsy, breadlike exoskeleton.
posted by Hoopo at 10:21 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


At this point, barring massive funding and quick mobilization, yes.

Phew, I was worried for a moment there, but thankfully I have full faith in the political process to make this happen.
posted by Jehan at 10:23 AM on June 22, 2011


Ideally, at some point we can reintroduce stocks that are mostly similar to the species that were depleted.

Not really. Some of the migration paths themselves evolved over eons. They have been continuously learned by subsequent generations. Just dumping a pile of naive fish in somewhere won't necessarily help, once the migration patterns have been obliterated.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:23 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


In the future, genetically engineered McFish will be flat and square with a cripsy, breadlike exoskeleton.

Nah, in the future, we'll all just subsist on a healthy (if chewy) diet of peanut butter and jellyfish sandwiches.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:24 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Just dumping a pile of naive fish in somewhere won't necessarily help, once the migration patterns have been obliterated.

That's where robot fish migratory route trainers come in!
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:24 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I heard this exact same warning back in the 1970's.

Cite please.

The ecology movement has to specifically, categorically and emphatically repudiate the Theory of Evolution

What kind of crazy is this? What?
posted by natteringnabob at 10:26 AM on June 22, 2011 [17 favorites]


No Robots: "our paradigm of biology, namely the Theory of Evolution, that gives us carte blanche to destroy life-forms at will"

No Robots: "The ecology movement has to specifically, categorically and emphatically repudiate the Theory of Evolution"

What do you mean by this?

If you mean the version of evolution that describes humans as being at the top of some linear progress and superior to all other organisms that hasn't been a mainstream version of evolutionary science for a long time now. It is Christian dominionist bullshit wearing a labcoat.
posted by idiopath at 10:27 AM on June 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Recognize that it is our paradigm of biology, namely the Theory of Evolution, that gives us carte blanche to destroy life-forms at will.

Excuse me, but what? This reads to me like a variation on Ben Stein's argument in Expelled: "Darwin's theory of evolution caused the Nazi's to perpetrate the Holocaust".

Please don't fall back to blaming scientific theories for the behaviour of human beings. Science explains what is happening: it doesn't rationalize, justify, or excuse it. The death of ocean life is due to human population growth and our habit, as a species, of sweeping garbage under the rug, not evolution.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 10:28 AM on June 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


I've stopped eating fish, what about you?
posted by Shit Parade at 10:28 AM on June 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


You are supposed to act like a goddam scientist.

Okay. I'm with you so far.

Recognize that it is our paradigm of biology, namely the Theory of Evolution, that gives us carte blanche to destroy life-forms at will.

Umm..

The ecology movement has to specifically, categorically and emphatically repudiate the Theory of Evolution.

So a scientist should act crazy? How far do I need to roll back scientific theory, does the Sun go back to revolving around the Earth?
posted by Bonzai at 10:28 AM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


The science is not hopeless.
Protecting areas from fishing works; controlling overfishing works.
The science is good, and recovery is possible -- biologically possible.
Jeremy Jackson


"Biologically rational decisions may not be politically possible once investment has occurred."
Science 5 January 2007: Vol. 315 no. 5808 p. 45 DOI: 10.1126/science.1135767
posted by hank at 10:30 AM on June 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


saul that article is quite disturbing but I cannot help my amusement at this line: their predation on fish eggs takes a heavier and heavier toll on battered fish stocks

I'm sure it was unintentional but heehee
posted by supermedusa at 10:30 AM on June 22, 2011


It's people! Soylent Green is made out of people! They're making our food out of people!
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:33 AM on June 22, 2011


>It is Christian dominionist bullshit wearing a labcoat.

That is exactly what I think of the Theory of Evolution. You might try to cover over the claims of linear progress and superior organisms, but the proof is in the pudding: the Theory of Evolution is silent on the preservation of biodiversity, and is thus useless on the pre-eminent practical issue in biology. If a scientific theory is inimical to human ends, then abandon it.
posted by No Robots at 10:35 AM on June 22, 2011


You know, when I was in school in the 90s, they told us how the Earth was goin to die from pollution if we didn't fix it. And I always thought hey, that's a ways off still, we'll get it fixed by the time we grow up, none of that terrible stud could really happen. Tigers won't go extinct, the oceans won't die out, it'll be ok. But as it turns out, by the 90s that was already too late.

Thanks, hippies. Fuck all of you.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:35 AM on June 22, 2011


If a scientific theory is inimical to human ends, then abandon it.

It isn't though. It's indifferent to human ends and anything else for that matter. It's the dominionist and social darwinist pseudo-science that are inimical to human ends. I'd say most scientists already abandoned those ideas long ago.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:37 AM on June 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


the Theory of Evolution is silent on the preservation of biodiversity

I'll let someone with more time and eloquence than I possess rebut this but I can't help but feel sorry for someone who has been exposed to such a life as to make this their belief. Untrue sir, untrue.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:38 AM on June 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


So, what about anchovies and sardines? Are they still ok to eat, or are they also dwindling?
posted by everichon at 10:40 AM on June 22, 2011


That is exactly what I think of the Theory of Evolution. You might try to cover over the claims of linear progress and superior organisms, but the proof is in the pudding: the Theory of Evolution is silent on the preservation of biodiversity, and is thus useless on the pre-eminent practical issue in biology. If a scientific theory is inimical to human ends, then abandon it.

No, actually, evolution provides us with some of the strongest motivation to preserve biodiversity. Why? Because survival of the fittest is not zero sum - our fitness also includes our interactions with our environment. Ecology is about community, not exploitation.

And, what? Linear progress? Superior organisms? Where did you get the idea that those things are included in the theory?

Study, grasshopper.
posted by natteringnabob at 10:40 AM on June 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


And, what? Linear progress? Superior organisms? Where did you get the idea that those things are included in the theory?

Or at least in our modern understanding of it?
posted by natteringnabob at 10:41 AM on June 22, 2011


The Theory of Gravity is silent on people falling down and injuring themselves. We must abandon it.
posted by perhapses at 10:44 AM on June 22, 2011 [24 favorites]


What's that? The oceans are dying? Only one thing to do:

Quick! Let's debate evolutionary theory!

(There's a line in an excellent poem by Stephen Dobyns named 'Inappropriate Gestures' that this aside somehow puts me in mind of--"Quick! Play the trombone!" or something like that).
posted by saulgoodman at 10:45 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


That is exactly what I think of the Theory of Evolution. You might try to cover over the claims of linear progress and superior organisms, but the proof is in the pudding: the Theory of Evolution is silent on the preservation of biodiversity, and is thus useless on the pre-eminent practical issue in biology. If a scientific theory is inimical to human ends, then abandon it.

First up, No Robots, it is just Evolution. Microevolution has been observed and macroevolution can be inferred, so enough with the capitals.

Secondly, ah hell, I'm just going to let the great man speak for us all...

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science."
— Charles Darwin

posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 10:53 AM on June 22, 2011


"the Theory of Evolution is silent on the preservation of biodiversity, and is thus useless on the pre-eminent practical issue in biology. If a scientific theory is inimical to human ends, then abandon it."

Ah. Scientific theories attempt to create models both explanatory (of past events) and predictive (of future events) within a given domain, hopefully in a quantitative fashion for the harder sciences. They do not address "right" or "wrong" or what makes you happy.

Let us run with your idea. The theory of gravity, for example, governs cannonballs used to smash people into wet goo. That is certainly inimical to human ends. Down with Gravity! Atomic physics creates atomic weapons, and then we have lots and lots of dead people, again inimical to human ends. I guess atomic physics isn't correct.

No, your idea does not hold up.
posted by adipocere at 10:54 AM on June 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


What's that? The oceans are dying? Only one thing to do:

Quick! Let's debate evolutionary theory!


Well, it's kind of like: "What's that? An asteroid is headed toward the earth? Quick! Let's debate gravity!"
posted by natteringnabob at 10:55 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, because I don't generally like to hide behind quotes...

I have no idea why you think that if a "scientific theory is inimical to human ends, then abandon it". Science is not about humans, it is about describing and understanding the world we inhabit. I hate to be the first to tell you this, but we ain't the centre of this fine universe we inhabit.
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 10:56 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I know, anecdotal evidence does not equal science, but:

My grandfather had a house on the Piankatank River here in Virginia. Over the course of my thirty-some years, I've fished a lot of crab and fish from that river and the Chesapeake Bay proper. Local populations have boom years and bust years, of course; things go in cycles. The overall trend, though, has been toward fewer, smaller, less healthy crabs and fish.

I love seafood; I mean, I was reared on the stuff, but after spending some time observing modern commercial fishing operations and oyster farms a few years ago, I swore off seafood entirely. I now eat only what I can buy from the old man down past the marina, and that just one or two times a year. The methods of bringing this food to our plate are so far from sustainable that it's hard to even imagine. The basic scheme is: fish one species+area into near-extinction, then move on to the next (either species or area; often both).

It broke my heart to realize I'd have to give up this simple food I love so much and which supports so many locals, but we just can't continue this way. I won't be a part of destroying something I love so much.
posted by introp at 10:57 AM on June 22, 2011 [6 favorites]



[joke to mask my horror]
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:44 AM on June 22 [4 favorites +] [!]

Eponysterical.
posted by gauche at 11:04 AM on June 22, 2011


Ah well. Plenty more fish...in the...oh.

damn.
posted by omnikron at 11:05 AM on June 22, 2011


we ain't the centre of this fine universe we inhabit

To quote msyelf:

When I think about the unfathomable scale of the universe and its forces, it renews my conviction that homo sapiens is not the central character in The Plot, if there is one. No sane Creator would fashion that disproportionate a backdrop.
posted by Trurl at 11:07 AM on June 22, 2011


Is there really anything we can do but joke about the end? It just seems unfeasible that anything will be done given the structure of power in the world right now.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:12 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


But then who says the Creator is sane, Turl.

Is there really anything we can do but joke about the end?

Looks like it.
posted by ZeroAmbition at 11:14 AM on June 22, 2011


Two documentaries that caused me to stop eating fish are: End of the Line and Darwin's Nightmare
posted by goneill at 11:15 AM on June 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


But then who says there's a Creator.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:16 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Recognize that it is our paradigm of biology, namely the Theory of Evolution, that gives us carte blanche to destroy life-forms at will.
"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth."

Not stewardship. Dominion.
posted by Flunkie at 11:20 AM on June 22, 2011


No Robots: "the Theory of Evolution is silent on the preservation of biodiversity"

The concept of biodiversity is nested in evolution as a concept. It hardly even makes sense without evolution.
posted by idiopath at 11:22 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


In what universe would evolution be against biodiversity? It is a stochastic process. More dice rolling the better.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:23 AM on June 22, 2011


A post-ecological world would finally be free of public and natural goods and that would be profitable as fuuuuck. We are in the wrong society to economically imagine this as the end of things, and that is precisely why society is in the wrong.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:28 AM on June 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Flunkie: To be fair some translations aren't as forceful as yours... don't get me started on Bible translations and their ilk but still. Example,

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

And the next few verses have a distinct feel of God's intent that we care for things instead of use/abuse as we please. But that's just me reading into it personally.

Oddly enough that quote comes from the same site yours did. Oh the irony.

Disclosure: Agnostic mind here.

posted by RolandOfEld at 11:28 AM on June 22, 2011


Verily, verily, the scientists do give recommendations. Maybe we could start to lobby the powers that be while we wait on the parting of the sea.
posted by de at 11:49 AM on June 22, 2011


What I find particularly precious is that fixing the problem is alwyas something in the distance. We go from "that won't be a peoblem any time soon" to "too late to fix it now". And the saddest thing is that if we actually change policies and fix these problems, the idiots will just claim that no disaster occuring was proof there was nothing to worry about in the first place.
posted by idiopath at 11:59 AM on June 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


It would be beneficial if we immediately halted commercial fishing... try telling fishermen that they have no right rape the sea though. They think they own the sea and everything in it.

http://i54.tinypic.com/sbkoc0.jpg
posted by cmetom at 12:17 PM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


The point is: we all get to keep our jobs for a little longer.
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:18 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


idiopath: And the saddest thing is that if we actually change policies and fix these problems, the idiots will just claim that no disaster occuring was proof there was nothing to worry about in the first place.

QFT.
Sometimes the little apocalyptic the-end-is-nigh prophet of doom inside of me makes me think that we, as a species, actually need some sort of global catastrophe in order to have a chance to learn our lessons. As I look around and try to understand what truly drives and motivates us, how we view and interpret things and how we respond to situations, I can't help but think that we're simply not capable of trading short term benefits for long term gains. It's certainly a recurring subject in SciFi literature (think Brin's "Earth", etc.).
I mean, look at children... they will experiment with stuff, get hurt and that's the way they learn. I suspect that as far as sentient species go we're like children. We have developed great mental capacity and capabilities but at this point it's like someone gave a child matches and explosives. We're equipped with a powerful tool that enables us to impact the entire planet and everything on it but we are still largely driven and our rationalizations are informed by much older, more primitive impulses that evolved because they work in other contexts. Having evolved fairly recently in terms of evolutionary timespans our rational minds are still just a thin veneer on top of everything else.
Rapid development of something like the human mind could ultimately prove to be an evolutionary dead end if it's not complemented by changes in other areas.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:24 PM on June 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


It is never too late to do something. Oceans ain't never going to be what they were, but that's no reason to disengage. There are plenty of solid, workable ways to save fisheries. The Chesapeake Bay rockfish was on the brink of extinction, and a years long fishing moratorium saved it. The New England lobster fields are another recent success story.

All it takes is to elect officials who care about the commons, are science-friendly, and can resist industry pressure. Elections matter.
posted by jetsetsc at 12:35 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


New England lobster fields are another recent success story.

Largely because the cod has been destroyed, many of the things it once fed on are doing very well. I'll take any cod over cheap lobster.
posted by stbalbach at 12:45 PM on June 22, 2011


> No more seafood? So what? It was all lousy with mercury anyway.

Sour grape... fish?
posted by mmrtnt at 12:47 PM on June 22, 2011


posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:24 PM on June 22 [1 favorite +] [!]

Well, you're obviously an impartial observer.
posted by mmrtnt at 12:48 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


What No Robots is criticising is not the theory of evolution itself, but the social Darwinism which became popular alongside the scientific theory of evolution and has never really left our concepts of what is right and just in a capitalist culture. "Survival of the fittest" is used as a post hoc justification of the extirpation of species (those stupid pandas had it coming anyway!) and therefore exploitative capitalist behaviours are healthy, adaptive, and natural. It's a totally despicable line of reasoning but no less prevalent for it. It's the same reason we exalt the rich as virtuous while we blame the poor for their situation. Everything, be it citizens or fish in the sea, is placed in a moral hierarchy based on its ability to subsist.

Then there's the whole manifest destiny thing. Blech.
posted by mek at 12:53 PM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


That is exactly what I think of the Theory of Evolution. You might try to cover over the claims of linear progress and superior organisms, but the proof is in the pudding: the Theory of Evolution is silent on the preservation of biodiversity, and is thus useless on the pre-eminent practical issue in biology. If a scientific theory is inimical to human ends, then abandon it.

You're confused. Seriously confused. The theory of evolution, even if you capitalize it all funky, doesn't strive to be anything but a description of observed physical processes, just like most any other theory. "Abandoning it" has literally no meaning.
posted by odinsdream at 12:54 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


20 million Americans will be affected by rising seas by 2030 (within 20 years!). That's the news, based on new evidence that sea levels along the US Atlantic seaboard have been rising faster than anytime in the past 2000 years, caused by climate change.
posted by stbalbach at 1:28 PM on June 22, 2011


mmrtnt: Well, you're obviously an impartial observer.

Yes, when humanity has failed and is no more a new world shall rise from the ashes. A world of hairy lobsters taking their rightful place at the top that they have been denied for so long.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 1:31 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


[joke to mask my horror]
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:44 AM on June 22 [4 favorites +] [!]

Eponysterical.
posted by gauche at 11:04 AM on June 22 [+] [!]


Eponysterical squared.

We can relax now, though. Insofar as sustainable foodstuffs go, we may have a solution at last.
posted by EatTheWeak at 2:03 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


>It is Christian dominionist bullshit wearing a labcoat.

That is exactly what I think of the Theory of Evolution. You might try to cover over the claims of linear progress and superior organisms, but the proof is in the pudding: the Theory of Evolution is silent on the preservation of biodiversity, and is thus useless on the pre-eminent practical issue in biology. If a scientific theory is inimical to human ends, then abandon it.


No Robots, eh? Good that you made that clarification, I'd have assumed that you were some sort of nonstop bullshit-spewing automaton, but it appears you may instead be the John Henry of stupidity.
posted by FatherDagon at 2:29 PM on June 22, 2011


This scares and excites me. Humans won't exist forever. It's interesting to think about what will happen to the earth when we are gone.
posted by agregoli at 3:48 PM on June 22, 2011


You are supposed to act like a goddam scientist. Recognize that it is our paradigm of biology, namely the Theory of Evolution, that gives us carte blanche to destroy life-forms at will. The ecology movement has to specifically, categorically and emphatically repudiate the Theory of Evolution. I'm sorry if that would leave a big hole in your comforting certainties about the nature of life. However, I would think that the least you could do, if you are genuinely concerned, is show some willingness to question these comforting certainties.

Some definitions might help: Ecology is the branch of biology concerned with the relationships between organisms and between organisms and their environments. Ecology as a science, like all other branches of biology, only make sense in light of evolution. If an organism is in its environment because a malicious god put it there or just for no particular reason, then I can't really study its relationship to its environment or to the other organisms around it.

If you meant environmentalism rather than ecology, well, once again, once you've abandoned science completely I'm not sure what you're going to study.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:52 PM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


> It's interesting to think about what will happen to the earth when we are gone.

See also: "The World Without US".
posted by Horselover Phattie at 3:55 PM on June 22, 2011


All it takes is to elect officials who care about the commons, are science-friendly, and can resist industry pressure. Elections matter.

I vote in every election and I try to make it matter but I can be very pessimistic about our chances. Hence, I think the ecology we see dying now will well and truly die before me. What I can trust on is the ability for a corporation to see commerce in developing patented sea life with which to restock the oceans.

So that's the scenario I'm expecting if we're to make it.

The real pessimistic outlook is that the death of sea life will alter the carbon cycle so drastically that our land-based food will also suffer to the point of causing mass starvation resulting in global insurrection and chaos, leaving behind a post-apocalyptic world of whatever cataclysmic world-ender you'd like to pick. My favorites are 1) small nation launches nukes (Mad Max scenario) and 2) unchecked pathogen causes pandemic (modern zombie scenario).
posted by linux at 4:40 PM on June 22, 2011


What I can trust on is the ability for a corporation to see commerce in developing patented sea life with which to restock the oceans.

I just died a little bit inside.
posted by dialetheia at 4:58 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am not a scientist, nor do I play one on television. What I do know is probably more about the economics of Arctic fishing companies than perhaps four or five other people on the planet. Admittedly, not a lot of competition out there on the economic side (although the Canadians have fucking amazing scientists working on this full time).

To put the money where the mouth is, I suggest anyone who doubts the large scale decimation immerse themselves in the arcana that is Canadian fishing rights. There's a reason the Danes use Icelandic proxies to buy up First Nations's fishing rights in the Davis Straight, and it has nothing to do with how tasty a fish can be found there.

Hint: there aren't any fish left in the major fishing grounds, which is why places like the Davis Straight (far, far North of the traditional Labradorian fishing grounds) and places like the Bering Straight are hotbeds for fishing. Any idea what it takes to fuel a piece of shit side trawler on the open seas in those areas? Ask yourself why would people spend money doing that if not for scarcity.

Also and more practically: if you want to eat fish, eat frozen fish sticks. Seriously. Fresher and more sustainable than anything at the fanciest restaurant you'll find.
posted by digitalprimate at 5:18 PM on June 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


On the upside, we have the luxury of knowing where things are headed.

It's cool when metaphors blossom into literal truth.
posted by darth_tedious at 5:28 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


> (those stupid pandas had it coming anyway!)

Eats, shoots, and leaves.
posted by jfuller at 5:42 PM on June 22, 2011


introp: My grandfather had a house on the Piankatank River here in Virginia. Over the course of my thirty-some years, I've fished a lot of crab and fish from that river and the Chesapeake Bay proper. Local populations have boom years and bust years, of course; things go in cycles. The overall trend, though, has been toward fewer, smaller, less healthy crabs and fish.

This is the basic problem: our frame of reference keeps shifting on a generational basis. Let's say you catch today half of what your father caught when he was your age. And he was catching half of what your grandfather caught at your age. And so on.

If each generation's memory is accurate, it means that you are catching 3% of what your great great great grandfather was catching. Yet each son only realized he was catching about half as much as his father was. The Guardian had an article about this a while ago, which I found via Information is Beautiful.
posted by Decimask at 6:27 PM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also and more practically: if you want to eat fish, eat frozen fish sticks. Seriously. Fresher and more sustainable than anything at the fanciest restaurant you'll find.
posted by digitalprimate at 5:18 PM on June 22 [+] [!]


Since you are an expert digitalprimate can you provide us with resources to evaluate this claim because from what I know this is, besides blue-fin tuna, about the worst way to consume fish. Again I stopped eating fish entirely (and you should too) but I would imagine buying fish that are heavily regulated with quotas (like Alaskan Salmon, they will be spawning soon in July). Again everyone should stop eating fish and push anywhere they can for bans which are policed.
posted by Shit Parade at 6:45 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


If each generation's memory is accurate, it means that you are catching 3% of what your great great great grandfather was catching

If only fishermen weren't so prone to exaggeration.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:53 PM on June 22, 2011


Depending on where you live, you can catch your own fresh water fish in lakes. That's what I do.
posted by Bonzai at 6:58 PM on June 22, 2011


Bonzai, you probably know this, freshwater can be heavily polluted with mercury and possibly other contaminants, even in northern Canada. Check out local fish warnings to be sure.
posted by stbalbach at 7:27 PM on June 22, 2011


ShutterBun: If only fishermen weren't so prone to exaggeration.

Less of a factor when it's a large commercial catch and is sold for by weight.
posted by Decimask at 7:34 PM on June 22, 2011


Besides a food security issue this is also a social-economic issue. Many of the world's poorest receive a large proportion of their protein via fish. Western nations ought to consider subsidizing these people's protein with other sources and encourage them to wean themselves off of commercial / large industry caught fish. Finally the United States must exert additional pressure on Japan to accept a world-wide ban on blue-fin tuna.
posted by Shit Parade at 7:38 PM on June 22, 2011


> Finally the United States must exert additional pressure on Japan ...

What a wonderful idea. Navy SEALS over a full decade?



> What I can trust on is the ability for a corporation to see commerce in developing patented sea life with which to restock the oceans.

There's a budding, optimistic, ocean health industry itching for support and not in the least bit interested in corporate bio-ingenuity. Hopefully there will be early laws prohibiting the release of patented sea life.
posted by de at 8:00 PM on June 22, 2011


What a wonderful idea

Yeah it actually is a wonderful idea de, perhaps you'll do your part to help out?
posted by Shit Parade at 8:35 PM on June 22, 2011


World wide quotas need to be instituted then enforced and policed, those who break them should be punished severely -- perhaps with seizure of property / sailing vessels / etc, then consumption taxes must be levied. philosophically and morally I am usually against unilateral action but this is one area I wouldn't mind seeing the United States Navy getting involved and forcing this issue to a head.

Again, this is about food security, wars are fought over much less. If crops like corn or meat like beef were on the verge of extinction I think people might get a better idea what a mass extinction of marine life might actually do to human civilization.
posted by Shit Parade at 8:48 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hearing Japan is looking into processing human faeces for human consumption, I was hopeful Japan had come to some realisation that breaking ranks internationally may be a thing in its past.

> philosophically and morally I am usually against unilateral action

I'm pleased to hear that.

> I wouldn't mind seeing the United States Navy getting involved and forcing this issue to a head.

I wouldn't mind seeing the rest of the international community asking the US to sit down and relax.
posted by de at 8:56 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bonzai, you probably know this, freshwater can be heavily polluted with mercury and possibly other contaminants, even in northern Canada. Check out local fish warnings to be sure.

Our fish are cool. The lake is run by an association of everyone who lives on it. Wisconsin has good water. (this part anyway)

There is no mining or farming nearby.

Actually this is one of the best places to live if civilization ever collapses, water, food, Packers it's got everything. *fingers crossed*
posted by Bonzai at 8:57 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The most likely culprits in the unfolding, large-scale disaster? Pollution and climate change, say the experts.

Not to mention overfishing, including bottom trawling, which is the aquatic equivalent of clear-cutting.
posted by eye of newt at 11:33 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


@Shit Parade

Sorry, family pulled me away before I could respond. The Fish Sticks thing is fairly easy. Fish sticks are generally - but not always - made from benthic and benthopelagic fish, the super ugly kinds that live near the bottom. Yes, they are trawled, but there's usually not much else down there the trawling messes up in the sub- and arctic waters where most of them come from.

They are then put into onsite processors, fabricated, flash frozen and sometimes even packaged onboard. Thus, not only are you eating the fish too ugly to be sold to nice restaurants, the fish was alive and kicking less than an hour or so before being deep frozen. This, obviously, does NOT apply to the "premium" type, e.g., "all Cod" (really, meaning Cod-trimmings.) Also, not all companies do it this way; they just use trimings from other fish all mixed together, which is no better. But your average fish sticks are still fresher and generally sourced either from "undesirable" but sustainable fish or from the bits of fish that would generally be considered waste.

And not to get all crazy, but a big problem with fish economics is that fishing companies literally have no idea of the value of their catch until they "land" it. Meaning, there is a high motivation to go and get the generally highest margin fish they can. Which, unfortunately, tend to be exactly the fish least sustainable.
posted by digitalprimate at 6:45 PM on June 24, 2011


Also, thinking about it now, @Shit Parade, one of the other main problems with commercial fishing, that in my opinion is nearly as bad, is the wholesale destruction of the lifestyles and livelihoods of sustenance fishers such as those in Canada and Greenland. Also: see Somalia. Which of course is even more reason to support your view that eating any fish is bad (to which I don't ascribe), but it provides you with a little more ammunition for your fight :)

(On the plus side, fishing vessels generally burn MGO rather than MDO 180cst or 380cst like almost all other commercial vessels, meaning better greenhouse emission profiles. Small comfort I know).
posted by digitalprimate at 6:52 PM on June 24, 2011


Sometimes the little apocalyptic the-end-is-nigh prophet of doom inside of me makes me think that we, as a species, actually need some sort of global catastrophe in order to have a chance to learn our lessons.

I'm pretty sure had not one but two of those in the 20th century. They didn't exactly help things much.
posted by mek at 6:26 PM on June 27, 2011


Even ignoring wars, we have a bunch of them unfolding right now and, as everyone can see from the very first comment on this thread, it doesn't matter. The sort of catastrophes that could happen fast enough to be considered so (big meteorite impact, VEI8 eruption) would objectively not be our fault and are unlikely to happen in our lifetime anyway. So there will always be people for whom things are just fine and and will always be getting finer because Progress, or that whatever inconvenience along the way is totally not our fault because Nature. See Decimask's comment.
posted by Bangaioh at 3:02 AM on June 28, 2011


patented sea life.

*shudder*
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 7:27 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


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