Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Join the Restoration

Just off the top of my head, we've got overheated oceans causing coral bleaching and melting ice, we've got the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone, we've got rampant overfishing including millions of sharks dying for fin soup, we've got runoff polluting the sea, we've got -- ok you get it.

So the National Geographic interview with Enric Sala raises a crucial question: Who Will Restore our Ocean? Nice that it's asked in a positive voice, as if it's inevitable that the oceans will be restored versus not at all, but let's not even go there today.

From the interview, a good explanation of why top predators, the big fish we mainly overconsume, are important:

Our impact in the ocean depends on what type of fish we eat. Removing a tuna from the ocean has a larger impact than removing an anchovy, for example, and this is why: At the base of  the food chain we have plants that are eaten by small animals, which in turn are eaten by anchovies, which in turn are eaten by larger fish and tuna.

So let's say that an anchovy requires one hectare per year to survive, one acre per year to survive, and a tuna requires 10,000 anchovies per year to survive. So the footprint of the tuna up in the food chain is much greater than the footprint of the anchovy at the bottom of the food chain. As we go up on the food chain, as we approach the top predators, the greater the footprint is. So we should try to reduce our consumption of the big guys up the food chain. We're taking too much of the productivity of the ocean.

And a succinct statement of what to do about it:  The best thing we can do is to reduce fishing pressure in the ocean...set aside some protected areas, if we reduce the fishing capacity, we take many boats out of the ocean, fishes will replenish themselves much more efficiently than if we are trying to engineer it.

Read more here.

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