Oceanic Collapse?

21 Jun 2011


the future - an empty ocean?

A summary of a report to the UN from 27 scientists from 6 different countries regarding the state of the world’s oceans is sure to stir up a lot of political heat if not decisive action. If this is accurate, it’s pretty scary as they predict species extinction on a scale unprecedented in human history.  They include case studies to illustrate their point.

Basically, these scientists report that the “perfect storm” of overfishing, pollution, and global warming effects (both of temperature and acidification of the oceans) are threatening just about every oceanic species except jellyfish.   

They conclude that the tools are there to make a significant difference in this projection and call for an international body with the power and ability to make a difference.   They propose:

1.  Increased measures to reduce CO2 emissions as a priority;

2. Coordinated efforts to reduce or prevent fishing to ensure long–term sustainability of fisheries;

 3. Reducing or preventing, to the extent possible, marine pollution including preventing or reducing nutrient (fertilizer run-off) pollution and oil, gas and other mineral pollution by better controls on or avoidance of extraction; and

4. Monitoring and assessment of other ocean uses, such as renewable energy schemes or cable/pipeline installation to prevent these new technologies from causing new problems.

At the end of the report, these scientists call for what they call “Proper and universal implementation of the precautionary principle.”  I understand them to mean that, when dealing with potentially catastrophic outcomes, assume that the suspect sources must be addressed and will not resolve themselves on their own  without being required to prove that this is the only possible path.  The concern is that by allowing the opposition to argue that there might be other outcomes or other unproven mitigating features and forcing these scientists to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that their concerns are absolutely certain may lead to the catastrophic outcome which might otherwise have been avoided.

I am sure that many out there will challenge this as quackery and assert that the oceans can take care of themselves.  Most of what we read and write in the environmental field is interesting, exciting, even financially beneficial.  This one is pretty scary. The full report isn’t out yet and hopefully there will be intelligent discussions on these topics at both the national and international level. Certainly, here in the Great Lakes State, we understand and endorse the concept of fishery management – while it is much harder on an international level, this is something that the whole world should understand; after all, 1/5 of the world’s population – over 1 Billion people are estimated to get a significant part of their diet from the ocean.

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