Good News–and Bad, from the Western Pacific

A great New York Times article , “Palau vs the Poachers,” looking at Palau’s attempts to police their waters as a microcosm of the problems created by poaching and overfishing.

I’ll repeat my oft stated contention that we do not spend nearly enough time in the Western Pacific where the US has a huge chunk of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). There is a new Marine Reserve to protect. Plus we have an obligation to help former US territories that are now independent island nations struggling to effectively protect their own fisheries.

The work of “SkyTruth” and Google in crowd sourcing fisheries intelligence recounted here is encouraging, but there is simply to little enforcement. There were a couple of paragraphs that particularly stood out to me.

The oceans belong to everyone and no one, and the general perception is that they are too big to need protection. We also tend to think of fish as an ever-regenerating crop, there forever for our taking. But roughly 90 percent of the world’s ocean stocks are depleted or overexploited; one study predicts that by 2050, the sea could contain more plastic waste than fish. Though most governments have neither the inclination nor the resources to patrol the oceans, Palau is trying a different approach, and whether it succeeds or fails may have consequences for the entire planet.

In the span of one human lifetime, humankind has become brutally adept at plundering the seas. In the late 1940s, the annual global catch was roughly 16.5 million tons; now, after decades of innovation, this number is about 94 million tons. ‘‘That’s equivalent in weight of the entire human population at the turn of the 20th century, removed from the sea each and every year,’’ Paul Greenberg, an author of books about fish and seafood, told me.

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