it's all about the fish
September 14, 2004 11:49 AM   Subscribe

The Starving Ocean : A large collection of articles by Debbie MacKenzie on the death of the ocean. The idea is that removing most of the fish from the sea might be sort of bad for the marine ecosystem as a whole. Her writing style is a bit kooky, but she has been right on some points (ie. the Grey Seal thing). Oh, and fishing is also responsible for the rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
posted by sfenders (10 comments total)
More than over fishing, I feel like pollution is the main culprit for dwindling fish stocks. Literally, billions of gallons of sewage are dumped into the oceans every day. Take a dump ( sorry for being so graphic ) in a fish tank and see what happens. Since any kind of waterfront property has become all the rage in the last few decades, estuaries have been paved over at an alarming rate eliminating a huge breeding ground for fish stock.

Ms Mackenzie's web site is impressive though. Not just for the breadth of articles she has put together but also for the fact that she put it together by herself. No grant money or any other funding. Just a passion for the oceans. Nice link, thanks.
posted by keithl at 12:15 PM on September 14, 2004

Her take on the effects of sewage and agricultural runoff is that it leads to eutrophication in the coastal areas (obviously), but that this input is effectively taken up by the system close to shore, results in increased denitrification locally, and the effects don't make it to the open ocean. It's discussed here, and here, and many other places; that the ocean is overfed with nutrients from human-generated outflow is one of the bigger pieces of conventional wisdom that she argues against.
posted by sfenders at 12:57 PM on September 14, 2004

Her site is pretty exhaustive, but there's even more to the story - "overfishing" isn't just commercial. Here's a recent New Scientist article explaining how Recreational fishing is actually taking a heavier toll than commercial fishing on some threatened species.
posted by soyjoy at 1:56 PM on September 14, 2004

Coral reefs are dying too, bleaching out, at least partially related to overfishing.
posted by Shane at 8:47 PM on September 14, 2004

It's a damn shame that the death of the World's oceans can't be "sexed up" a little - or tied to Oprah and undertipping.
posted by troutfishing at 9:04 PM on September 14, 2004

1) Destroy oceans
2) Eutrophication, stench!
3) New Age
posted by troutfishing at 9:06 PM on September 14, 2004

Why on earth are there government subsidies for fishermen, who are not only causing an ecological disaster and extinction of fish species, but are rapidly destroying their own livelihoods and will require more subsidies when the fish is pushed into extinction in the local area?
posted by BigCalm at 1:31 AM on September 15, 2004

Here in Japan allot of the blame for the decline in fish stocks is placed on whales, therefore providing justification for increased whaling (both "scientific" and preferably commercial). Of course, the real culprit is over fishing, so that if there were no international pressure or regulations and things progressed to their natural conclusion, we'd have neither fish nor whales remaining.

It certainly doesn't help that countries like Taiwan are ramping up their fishing fleet to supply the Japanese market, while violating regional conservation agreements by registering them with small countries like Vanuatu.

This is a stereotypical "tragedy of the commons" with no free-market compatible solution. In fact, there may be no solution. Governments simply do not have the will to enforce realistic quotas, and even if they did there is no known way of truly enforcing them, the oceans are just too big and the problem just too widespread.
posted by Meridian at 4:46 AM on September 15, 2004

If I got the gist of her article right she saying that the main problem isn't overfishing but rather the fact that nutrients aren't being returned to the oceans. The is causing the oceans to starve.

I guess we need to start dumping all our organic refuse into the atlantic.
posted by Bonzai at 9:00 AM on September 15, 2004

Exactly, Bonzai. But dumping tons of shit in one little harbour won't do it. We need a massive, distributed campaign to dump garbage all over the ocean. Debbie has backed away from that idea a bit over the past few years, presumably having been convinced that it is a little risky, but I think she still suggests we should experiment with it on a small scale.

I was hoping somebody would comment on the carbon dioxide thing. It seems crazy enough that it might just be true. Does anyone else have an explanation for the WWII effect?
posted by sfenders at 11:23 AM on September 15, 2004

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