Thursday, July 26, 2007

What are oceans for?

As I travel and talk to people about oceans I’m hearing the same conversation begin over and over again. Halting, preliminary, incomplete, but recognizable. Using different jargon in different fora, some technical and some not.

People are beginning to ask: what are oceans for?

The long history of unconsidered use is being questioned. Decades of fishing pushed favorite fish into deep decline, and the response is starting to sound new.

For years, overfishing was a technical problem, to be fixed by better stock assessments and tweaking the way people fish. A new model here and modified nets there. But now we’re seeing some new responses. People are starting to say that our oceans are not just for jobs. We need to start worrying about our oceans, because they’re natural capital that we need to protect.

Conservation groups are giving fishermen money to stop fishing. Governments are declaring some areas off-limits to fishing in a new ocean refuge movement. Retail chains that buy lots of seafood are asking for sustainable fishing because they’re worried about running out of seafood.

These ocean future conversations are just beginning, and they’ll take time. How will they end? These things only go one way.

Logging of old growth forests was for jobs when I was growing up in Oregon, and now logging proponents say it’s for the good of the forest. That conversation has changed in my lifetime, and it ain’t going back.

Everybody knows that it’s bad to dump sewage in rivers, and we’re slowly getting about the business of fixing that problem. It’s expensive and slow, but we know what we have to do and there’s no going back.

Today’s ocean conversations are starting down the same path. What are oceans for?


Hodad said...

our oceans are NOT our garbage cans, that is for sure
they are part of us, we also wax and wane with the moon, and are 70% salt based
and of course for the waves
[i know just an old surfer hippie
what can i say]
[Peace to all and be aware of how your actions, purchases,thoughts affect others, worldwide....
Viva Cuba,Venezuela,Bolivia,Ecuador, Nicaragua
Viva El Frente
and all you pill popping usa people go see "SICKO"
[and your piss and shit that goes into the ocean eventually, well has all that pill residue in it, believe what i say]

Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing up this very important issue. I would like to add that catching fish is not the only way oceans provide jobs. A fish in the ocean might be worth more (in terms of economic impacts) than a fish on the plate and some Marine Protected Areas around the world support this fact. Granted that the jobs are not in the same sector and not benifitting the same people. But as long as its "pareto improvement" (which means that it's possible to make someone better off without making anyone else worse off through redistribution or otherwise)it's a favorable policy.

Nancy Wu said...

What are oceans for? That's a good question. It deserves a whole day trip to ocean for the students or anyone to ponder about.