Conservation and Basic Human Behavior Don’t Go Hand in Hand

The following editorial was written by a staff member of a weekly local paper, the Chinook Observer, who ironically may also be the one calling for the extermination of sea lions in Astoria, OR and cormorants at the mouth of the Columbia River. [My comments in brackets]:

“Huge Undercount of world fish Catch demands cooperation.”

January 27, 2016,

“Even the most adamant defender of lower Columbia River-based fisheries will admit there was rampant over-fishing during all of the nineteenth century and much of the twentieth. [After that, fish species were nearly extinct and conservation was finally implemented.] It was a classic case of grabbing as much as you could before some other guy gets it. A new study from the University of British Columbia strongly suggests that these wasteful and greedy patterns continue in much of the world.

“In our neighborhood, recognition that everyone’s livelihood was being endangered led to some of the world’s earliest effective conservation measures. More than a century ago, the commercial industry acted in concert with states to declare some days, and even months, closed to fishing in order to preserve salmon brood stock for future seasons. These conservation steps weren’t perfect but most seasons were economically ample. It wasn’t until dam construction that salmon runs fell apart.

“However, rarely if ever in earlier years was much consideration to what happened offshore. It’s clear from records at the time that fisheries enforcement was problematic even within the confines of the enormous Columbia estuary. At sea, it literally was the Wild West for those fishermen willing to brave the Pacific. It wasn’t until 1982 adoption of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea that the US really began enforcing fishing laws out 200 nautical miles. Before then, Japanese and Russian trawlers routinely violated our 12 mile territorial limits.

“Basic human behavior [i.e. grabbing as much as you could before some other guy gets it—the Wild West mentality], lack of laws and enforcement, poorly designed rules and other factors are all contributing to far more fish mortality than is officially recognized, U BC researchers say in their new study. They believe the UN’s food and agriculture organization does a decent job of counting catches from large scale industrial fisheries, but it drastically undercounts the quantity of fish caught by small scale commercial fisheries and subsistence fisheries. Discarded bycatch [i.e. bykill] and illegal fishing also are undercounted.

“This undercount, the researchers say, totals more than 70.5 billion pounds a year, more than the weight of the entire human population of the US.

“It is time for all nations of the world to arrive at the same conclusions Columbia River and US west coast fishermen did decades ago: long term survival requires enforceable rules, cooperation among fishermen, timely information about stocks, and a commitment to common sense-conservation that ensures delicious fish [Is human hedonism really so important in the scheme of things] for consumers and jobs for future families.”

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