Tags: More | Fish?

No More Fish?

Monday, 30 June 2003 12:00 AM

"Empty Oceans" was the headline splashed across the cover of U.S. News & World Report regarding the status of the world's fish stocks. The article quoted Scripps Institution of Oceanography ecologist Jeremy Jackson: "Jellyfish have become a commercial fishery in many places because that's all that's left. That and the bacteria."

To check out the story, my son Jimmy and I went down to the local dock and found an expert. Jerry, a Camden cop and a 2001 South Jersey Shark Fishing Tournament winner, described the fishing in a way that didn't quite match the crisis headline in U.S. News. "There's so many fish in the bay," he said, "it's annoying."

He offered to take us out in his boat to see for ourselves, assuring me that we'd fish the bay and steer clear of the ocean. The gnats, however, quickly changed our plans and Jimmy and Jerry decided we should head for bigger waters.

I white-knuckled it as the waves from the inlet broke over the bow, but we continued on. With the water getting rougher and deeper and the houses along the beach getting more distant and smaller by the minute, I suggested turning back – back to the safety of the bay – but was quickly overruled.

We were going to fish the vast and wavy ocean in a 17-foot Boston whaler, trolling a mile or so off the beach of Strathmere, a little town at the north end of our barrier island where the locals wear T-shirts that say "Where the hell is Strathmere?"

Not to worry, said Jerry. "This boat is UNSINKABLE. You can cut it in four pieces or fill it with water and it won't sink." My mind quickly flashed to the Titanic.

On the first cast, within seconds, Jimmy and I both had a bluefish on the line. After about half an hour of fast and furious action, we had 11 blues on ice in the boat, more than enough fillets for the seven adults and four kids back at the house, cooked the Bookbinder's way, topped with a layer of onions and baked parmesan cheese.

The big one, of course, got away, breaking my line as I was reeling him in. Many more jumped off the hook at the last second, just as they were being pulled out of the water.

"You see how many are in here," said Jerry, pointing to the blues that were darting around the fish that we were pulling in. Bottom line, it didn't look like an "empty ocean" this morning.

Citing experts, the U.S. News story reports that "the abundance of large ocean fish – bottom-dwelling groundfish like cod and open-ocean swimmers like tunas, swordfish, marlins and sharks – has plummeted by 90 percent since industrialized fishing got going after World War II."

As a suggested fix, U.S. News points to a new "blue ribbon" study funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts that was released this month. Arguing that more central controls and a complete overhaul of the entire fisheries system are necessary in order to save the ecosystem, the Pew study calls for fish reservations in the sea where all fishing would be prohibited, a rollback of coastal development and, surprisingly, a complete moratorium on new fish farms.

Making it sound like a war, U.S. News describes a ravenous America that is consuming over 4 billion pounds of seafood a year, destroying everything on the ocean floor with "submarine bulldozers" and a "global armada" that's guided by high-tech satellites, putting red snappers in about the same boat as the Iraqi army.

Forgive me if I'm a bit skeptical, but these Pew experts sound like those people who watched American troops march into Baghdad and then wrung their hands about some old vases that were missing from an Iraqi museum. They see only holes, no donuts.

Well, in fact, most of the old junk and rusty pots are back at the museum and, without shifting the management of who's catching what to the bureaucrats at the U.N., there have been notable gains over the past decade in the overall stock size of New England groundfish – a jump from 170,000 metric tons in 1994 to over 450,000 metric tons in 2001.

Empty oceans? It might help to remember that the Pew Charitable Foundation is an advocacy group with a record. "The Pew Charitable Trusts named anti-chlorine activist Theo Colburn one of its 'Pew Fellows' and paid her $150,000," writes Joseph L. Bast at the Heartland Institute.

"Other Pew Fellows who are notoriously anti-industry include Deonella Meadows, coauthor of the 1972 report 'The Limits to Growth,' and Reed Noss, architect of the 'Wildlands Project' to remove any human presence from approximately half the territory of the continental United States. Pew has also created the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, led by former Clinton Administration treaty negotiator Eileen Claussen, to act as a public relations and marketing firm for the most alarmist voices in the global warming debate."

No more fish? It's my bet that I got a more objective look at things out on the water with my son last week.

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"Empty Oceans" was the headline splashed across the cover of U.S. News & World Report regarding the status of the world's fish stocks. The article quoted Scripps Institution of Oceanography ecologist Jeremy Jackson: "Jellyfish have become a commercial fishery in many places...
More,Fish?
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2003-00-30
Monday, 30 June 2003 12:00 AM
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