Reports show damage to fisheries.
Thursday, July 11, 2002
Two major ocean reports-one local and one national-were released this week. Neither offers a rosy picture.
On July 9, the Ocean Conservancy issued an 80-page document called Health of the Oceans that blames the declining well-being of the ocean on human predation. It claims that overfishing, moreso than pollution, continues to inflict major harm to the sea. The report alleges that "poor management has reduced many species of fish and marine wildlife to a fraction of their historical abundance-in some cases to near extinction."
The Ocean Conservancy also states that 44 percent of estuaries-the points where rivers flow into the sea-are polluted; coral reefs are endangered; and sea turtles, sea birds, marine mammals and some whales are in danger.
Leading the charge for a reform of ocean management is retired Coast Guard Admiral Roger Rufe, now president of Ocean Conservancy.
"We must change the prevailing view that fish are merely seafood and that oceans are fish factories," Rufe says. "As certain species of fish disappear, ocean ecosystems decline and this effect can have repercussions on all Americans as far-reaching as pollution or global-warming."
The group calls for drastic reforms to ocean management, including creating a federal agency dedicated solely to the seas and complete reform of the way fisheries are managed.
Also released this week is a report on fishing in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) completed by biologists at the Moss Landing Marine Lab in conjunction with the state Fish & Game Dept. and the California Sea Grant Program.
Of note is the fact that while commercial fishing has declined 40 percent in the MBNMS area since the early ''80s, recreational fishing has grown 65 percent, and in fact recreational fish harvest of some nearshore rockfish species is greater than that of commercial operations.
Some of the decline in fish catches is blamed on strict fishing regulations, such as the state''s Marine Life Management Act. However, the number of fish in the sanctuary remains a mystery. "The population status of a great many species harvested in the MBNMS is unknown," the report says.