Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Slow motion revolution in ocean conservation

I see good things ahead for oceans. I know it’s popular to talk doom, but that’s mostly the curse of the specialist talking. Those that know the most find disaster everywhere, but their problem is that they can’t see outside the frame. In every situation I know of, big change looks impossible until after it happens, and then it looks like it was inevitable.

Tell me you saw the Berlin wall falling in 1984--yet 5 short years later, it was gone and now everyone says of course. I grew up in Oregon where trees were for cutting and nobody would have guessed that soon forest health would be more important than timber jobs.

Of course, surprising changes can work both ways. Everyone would have laughed 20 years ago if someone predicted that Oregon’s coho salmon would be a threatened species. And who knew that those abalone that littered the California coast would be soon be gone?

So what’s positive for oceans?

In 2005, I was nervous about a big foundation proposal with the goal of ending overfishing in US waters by 2012. I thought my colleagues would laugh at me. They did laugh, but I think we’ll get there with the new Magnuson-Stevens Act—or damn close—and maybe even a year or two early.

Fishing interests have held an exclusive franchise on fish for generations, but that is changing. MPAs are advancing, in Florida, in Hawaii, in California, and beyond. Fishing interests are resisting, because they see their franchise slipping away. But until they truly embrace conservation—and most don’t—they’ll keep losing influence.

Seafood buyers are worrying about sustainability, for business reasons or because their customers care. Now Wal-mart is bringing you sustainable seafood. When America’s store gets on board, the train is moving.

This is not to say that the problems are solved, they’re not. Overdevelopment of coasts is a serious threat, and the coming global changes will stress ocean ecosystems. Invasive species will displace natives, and fishing is not going to go away so long as people like to eat. So what will we do?

We’ll beat the problems, just like we solved the devastating disease crisis caused by dumping shit out the windows of our houses a few centuries ago. We beat that one with the radical and unworkable solution of sewers.

Most of the crisis in ocean conservation is a crisis of vision and courage. People see oceans decline and they can’t see the way out. The toughest part of conservation is seeing a good opportunity for change and going after it with everything. Give yourself the gift of optimism and start seeing the way out.

There you have it, the ocean world according to blogfish. More to come if you’re interested.

Mark Powell

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

More than interested... involved.
"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." Bucky Fuller

We are begining to build a new model. It has to be done very quickly. We have to question authority every day... and the questions must be improved every day. If we don't do it who will?
We've tried letting others manage fisheries... it is really up to us.
If we don't do it, it ain't going to happen. Do it now!
Ray Kinney