Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pacific Islands - running out of Fish!

Forget the romantic past: THIS is a typical Pacific Islands fisherman. Source.

Did you see this?
The coral fishermen of Vanuatu are facing a growing crisis: they are increasingly returning from their fishing expeditions with ever dwindling hauls. 
That‘s because the coral reefs that they travel out to are disappearing at an alarming rate as are the fish stocks near the coast that have traditionally served as the staple diet for people in the region. It‘s a similar story in the other Pacific Islands too. 

A variety of factors are responsible for the phenomenon. 
In addition to environmental pollution, rising temperatures and a creeping acidity in the ocean‘s waters – both a consequence of climate change – have taken a huge toll on the reefs. In fact, the ocean’s chemical makeup has changed more now than it has in 55 million years. That has put incredible pressure on the region’s embattled coral reefs, which have seen their rich biodiversity diminish.
Once again, the culprit is Climate Change, i.e. "others".

Nothing to do with ever increasing populations and individual ecological footprints, and the unwillingness to tackle the issue.
Nothing to do with overfishing. Nothing to do with the fact that there there is a shift from pure subsistence fishing to small scale commercial fishing whereby individual fishermen are catching many more Fish compared to before. Nothing to do with the fact that starting with those outboard engines and nylon gill nets, small-scale fishing is becoming ever more sophisticated and effective. Nothing to do with the fact that those governments are not in the slightest managing those coastal fisheries, meaning that there are no quotas, no monitoring, no enforcement let alone any prosecution!

  • Address population growth.
    That's the best strategy for both reducing poverty and progressing towards sustainability which is the only long term solution. Contrary to Climate Change where the effects are probably already locked in, those predicted 50% in population growth are by no means inevitable but can be steered with adequate policies, foremost of which national dialogue and education!
  • Manage your coastal fisheries sustainably.
    With populations growing and coral cover receding, the old traditional rules where everybody could just go out and simply catch whatever they could do not apply anymore! Management needs to comprise both MPAs and temporary closures and also management at the species level, the latter especially when it comes to the larger predators that continue to be targeted disproportionately. What it also means is that some stocks must be allowed to recover, meaning maybe slightly less now in favor of much more later!
  • Reduce pollution and protect critical habitat, like the nurseries.
  • Reduce the licenses and quotas of those offshore foreign vessels.
    Those industrial purse seiners should be forbidden altogether, this in favor of smaller and less "efficient" vessels - remember that any Tuna that are not being caught now are gonna be worth much more next year! The idea of forcing those vessels to retain and sell their bycatch is actually not bad - but only provided that the bycatch is legit, meaning that one must implement, enforce and continuously improve bycatch mitigation measures and strictly monitor the fishery - see the shenanigans with the so-called Shark bycatch!
Yeah I know I know.
Not gonna happen anytime soon.
The coastal overfishing is likely to get even worse not better, this because habitats continue to be degraded and because there is a chronic lack of resources for the implementation of any meaningful management measures - and above all, because ultimately, nobody dares to mess with those perceived sacrosanct traditional indigenous rights, see the continued shenanigans by WESPAC!
And when it comes to the offshore fisheries, the dirty business continues unabated. Only glimmer of hope: the PNA - but even there the highly profitable Pacific solidarity is being undermined by the usual liars and cheats.

But then again, who knows.
What is required are good, honest leaders that care about the well being of their people, and have the vision and also the mettle to make decisions that may initially be unpopular but will yield tremendous dividends in the longer term.
Not likely - but not impossible, either!

Anybody come to mind?

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