Posted by: azurejello | March 7, 2010

4 Reasons Our Oceans Are In Jeopardy

In oceans all over the world, fish are being hunted down to every last one, and our oceans are now in jeopardy. Looking at the oceans, here are four important reasons why they’re in trouble, and some ideas on how we can help.

1. Overfishing & Extinction:

Bluefin Tuna, a species severely overfished because of the high demand for its meat, now faces extinction. Unless the international ban being debated in Europe works, the fish will soon be gone. That shows how badly one species can be overfished, even though the world doesn’t need that much fish.

Overfishing is a large and constant threat that looms over almost every fish in the ocean. What will happen if suddenly, one entire species is gone, swept away by massive nets. That is why many people and organizations are trying to stop overfishing now.

What can we do to help?

Stop purchasing seafood that is being overfished or that is on the verge of extinction. For more information on good fish to eat, visit Seafood Watch and Fish 2 Fork (or follow them on Twitter @SeafoodWatch and @Fish2Fork. We can also eat more sustainably, instead of eating dangerous food that is being overfished and caught in massive quantities.

Many people also think that farmed fish is sustainable and safe, but they may be wrong. Many types of farmed fish (particularly salmon) cause some damage. Farmed fish produce a lot of nitrogen, which causes algal blooms, which results in having to give fish antibiotics. The antibiotics affect oceans and there inhabitants when farmed fish escape and can weaken other fish’s genetic lines.

Finally, it takes a ton of “food fish” to raise only a small amount of farmed fish. Taking out to much food fish disturbs the food chain, starving the fish that survive on the food fish in the open ocean. This is an extremely inefficient way to produce protein, because you must feed dozens of pounds of food fish for ever pound of farmed fish created.

2. Polluted Rivers and Oceans and Toxic Fish:

Where the Mississippi River runs into the Gulf of Mexico is now a dead zone. No fish can survive there because of the pollution, especially pesticide and fertilizer runoff from agricultural fields, that runs into the Mississippi River from all the different branches and then into the Gulf.

There is also the pollution from coal-fired power plants emitting mercury, which I wrote about in my review of The Cove. Mercury is one of the most toxic substances on earth, and mercury poisoning is commonly referred to as “Minamata Disease.” The town of Minamata, Japan’s drinking water was contaminated by methyl mercury, which led to about 30 years of many animals and people deaths; while the government and Chisso (the industrial company responsible for the outbreak) watched and did nothing about the pollution. Nowadays, many types of fish are contaminated because of such pollution.

What can we do to help?

Stop buying food that we don’t know where it’s from and purchase more sustainable foods and fish. Go online and learn about what fish are contaminated, and what types aren’t. Then when we go to the store, we’ll know what is safe for ourselves and our families to eat. We should also spread the word about how pollution is getting into our waters and killing fish and other creatures, as well as making people sick.

Consider what else we can do to prevent pollution. Almost everything we do to use energy uses fossil fuels, e.g., coal, oil or gas. That puts more CO2 and bad chemicals like mercury into the air and the ocean. What can we do about it? Reduce using energy when you don’t need to; turn the thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer, Turn off lights when you leave a room. Walk or bike instead of riding in a car when possible.  Everything you do to use less energy will help the ocean. Secondly, stop putting pesticides and unsustainable fertilizers on your lawns. Why? The storm runoff can leak into rivers and streams, which head to oceans, ultimately. The toxic chemicals in fertilizers will reach the ocean, basically creating dead zones that will kill lots of marine mammals, plants and other living creatures.

3. Ocean Ecosystems Are Being Destroyed:

In many places deep under the rocking waves of our oceans throughout the world, fish thrive, feeding on each other – basically a circle of life. Now imagine if that circle broke, as one species is hunted down to extinction. Or, imagine if pollution invades an ecosystem and wipes it out. Then the circle comes tumbling down, and that basically collapses part of the ocean. Why does it affect the ocean? Because ecosystems keep oceans in balance, so if it tilts or breaks, Earth’s oceans are in trouble.

What can we do about it?

We can all lobby our governments to support the international fishing ban and similar laws, which will stop overfishing and help restore the balance in the oceans. Vote for governors, senators and representative that will try to help oceans and against people who don’t support it. Ocean Champions is supporting such candidates that support sustainable fishing and oceans. Check them out. As consumers, we have the power to also reduce demand for the types of crops that are grown using pesticides and fertilizers along our major waterways, which feed into our oceans.

4. Arrogant Companies and Ignorant Consumers

People often walk into a supermarket, deciding to pick up a certain type of fish that they may have no idea where it’s from, how it was caught or what type of fish it is. Regarding the last statement, consumers are sometimes misled by packagers. For example, in Taiji, Japan (where The Cove took place) many citizens thought they were buying one type of fish, when they were really buying contaminated dolphin meat. So, that random fish you’re eating could be caught in Japan, slaughtered there, bought at a massive fish market, traded to another company, and then shipped to places all over the world to be sold in supermarkets and purchased by the un-excepting consumer.

What can we do about it?

As I mentioned above, it’s important that we know where the fish we eat is from. When we shop at supermarkets, we can look up Seafood Watch on our phones or other Internet-connected devices to get the latest updates. When we go out to eat, we should visit Fish 2 Fork to learn about good restaurants in our area.


Special thanks to Mike Dunmyer, Executive Director of Ocean Champions, for his contributions to this article. In addition to his help on the article, Mike also shared with me Surfrider’s “20 Simple Things You Can Do For Cleaner Oceans, Waves and Beaches,” which explains what we all can do for our oceans.

Posted by: azurejello | March 4, 2010

The Cove – A 10 Year Old’s Perspective

The Cove is a thrilling, real life story. It’s an Academy Award-nominated Best Documentary (along with Food Inc., another great documentary), and has won many other awards since it was screened at the Sundance Festival, and all over the world.

It takes place in Taiji, Japan, a place you would think that the people loved dolphins, since they have a Whale Museum, dolphin-shaped ferries, dolphin monuments and more. That’s where a crack team of environmentalists (sort of like a green version of the movie Oceans 11) decided they wanted to find out what was really going on in Taiji’s hidden cove.

First, a little background. The cove is a hidden lagoon where you can’t see in unless you are actually within its curved area, but you can’t get in because the area is secured by fences, “Keep Out” signs and informal guards.

During the day, large boats go out and catch hordes of dolphins. They then bring them into netted areas of water, where they are held until sold to multi-million dollar companies, such as SeaWorld, which train the dolpins for performing. But something bad is happening in the cove; hundreds of dolphins that nobody wants are taken into the hidden cove and don’t return. The only thing onlookers see is the water near the entrance to the cove turning red with blood.

Uncovering what was happening in the cove was the mission of The Cove team (including director Louie Psihoyos). Their job was to get into the cove, uncover the secret and expose it to the world.

Using all kinds of high-tech equipment: from a U.S. army thermal camera to a simple video camera, the OPS (Oceanic Preservation Society) team was ready to show how the fishermen of Taiji were lying to the world.

Meet Ric O’Barry, who worked with captive dolphins for about 10 years, and from then on opposed dolphin captivity for the last 30 or so years. O’Barry was once one of the most famed dolphin trainers after the TV show Flipper premiered in 1964. When Kathy, the star dolphin of the show died in his arms, O’Barry decided that dolphin captivity was wrong.

The Japanese government didn’t want the OPS team to uncover what was happening in the cove. They told other nations that they were only catching dolphins for training, not for meat. One of the only international agencies trying to help stop this was the International Whaling Commission (IWC), but several voting members were under the influence of the Japanese representative, so the IWC was stuck in the mud.

It gets worse. The excess dolphin meat is being put in school kids lunches, and they don’t know its there. Another similar thing is happening in supermarkets throughout Taiji and Japan. The consumers don’t know what there eating. They can walk in and pick up a package of of fish and it could be contaminated dolphin meat.  There are high levels of mercury in dolphins, which originates from pollution coming from massive factories/coal plants that enters the ocean and is eaten by various sea creatures until it reaches dolphins, which are at the top of the food chain, which is like a circle of life. Then humans eat it, and as you may know, mercury is one of the most toxic elements on the face of the earth. And now Japanese children are eating it.

This situation is similar to what happened in Minamata, Japan, where the cities drinking water was polluted with methyl mercury, which came from a Chisso plant. Many residents of Minamata got mercury poisoning, which became known as Minimata Disease. The disease is a syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning. The symptoms include numbness of face, hands or legs, muscles wearing out, losing vision or hearing and in the worst cases, insanity, coma and possibly a week after, death most likely will happen. What was horrible in this case was that the government and Chisso didn’t do anything to help until things got out of hand.

We can’t let this happen again.

Watch The Cove, a 5-star documentary full of excitement, thrilling and informative. Learn what you can do to help. Avoid eating seafood that you either don’t know where it’s from or you don’t know what it is. Avoid eating un-sustainable seafood. Avoid using lots of energy because it releases more CO2 and other chemicals, which leak into the ocean.

Visit The Cove to learn more.

Posted by: azurejello | March 3, 2010

What if Fish Weren’t Threatened?

Imagine a futuristic world, a place where fish thrive in the billions, throughout our oceans and seas. Imagine a world that has no overfishing; has no species on the brink of extinction.

What would that world look like?

You would walk down the deck of a ship and feel the cool, sea breeze envelop you, as the ship rocks in the wind. You would look out into the vast ocean stretched out before you, and see dolphins leaping out of the water, free and safe from horrific deaths that occur today, such as what takes place in Taiji, Japan.

Your ship would dock, and walking on to the pier, you wouldn’t see advertisements for captive animals “owned” by multi-million dollar companies, such as SeaWorld or other massive, unsustainable companies; unlike Monterey Bay Aquarium and New England Aquarium. Instead, there would be signs pointing to environmentally friendly alternatives, such as whale-watching, where the fish have not been forced into captivity or to perform tricks when they long to be free.

What happened to the Bluefin Tuna, which were on the verge of extinction?

They are once again thriving thanks to the European Fishing Ban that passed after the U.S. agreed to join with the other countries in banning fishing of Bluefin. Countries around the world are working with many private organizations, e.g., Oceanic Preservation Society that look out for the banned fish.

In addition to fishing bans, governments have agreed to support the “Captivity Agreement.”

The Captivity Agreement states that no fish that is banned may be held captive in aquarium tanks. For example, Cod and Bluefin Tuna are not allowed in tanks. It also states that any endangered animal found in aquarium tanks must be released unless the government has granted the owner of the tank a special exception, which are reserved for oceanic research and helping injured animals.

Finally, the Japanese government no longer has a large amount of influence in the International Whaling Commission‘. This is due to other countries not believing Japan because of the scandal revealed in The Cove, a documentary released in 2009.

Could this happen? It could if everyone worked extremely hard to save the Earth’s oceans and their inhabitants.

Posted by: azurejello | January 18, 2010

Why Sustainable Fishing is Important

In a world where fish are being hunted  by massive ships and new technology, its more important than ever for people to eat more sustainably.

The need for sustainable fishing is rather large, because we are slowly killing off all the edible fish in the ocean. In fact, scientists predict that by 2048, there will be no more edible fish in the ocean if rates continue like this.

Sustainable food means that it is caught or grown in environmentally  friendly ways. One reason we should eat sustainable fish is because its caught safely, and that the fish is good for you. That doesn’t mean that suddenly Bluefin tuna is good for you, because bluefin is a “red” fish, according Seafood Watch at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California.

Eating “red” fish (which means avoid eating) is not sustainable in any way. Red fish (e.g., Bluefin tuna) are caught mostly by trawlers – large nets pulled by ships that drag up all kinds of sea life. One of the worst parts is when they take all the sea life that they don’t want (or is dead) and throw it overboard. Dead, rotting fish in such large quantities isn’t good for the ocean.

Another reason we should  eat sustainable seafood is because  the way it affects people. Fish not caught in environmentally  friendly ways can carry sicknesses that are bad when you eat them. Eating sustainable seafood not only helps the environment, it also helps you and your family.

Please try to eat sustainable fish when you have the chance, because a little can go a long way.

Posted by: azurejello | November 24, 2009

The End of the Line: A Fishing Crisis

One of the world’s largest problems is the fish crisis which I learned about in The End of the Line, a great documentary about overfishing.  All over the world, different species have been hunted to very few numbers, and many fish are listed endangered or threatened. Two examples of this major crisis are the problems of the Bluefin Tuna and the Cod.

Bluefin Tuna

The Bluefin Tuna can grow up to 12 feet in length, 1,500 pounds in weight and can go up too 25 miles per hour. But now, the Bluefin are facing a major problem- man. Each year, fisherman set a trap in the tuna’s migrating  route. Tons of tuna are caught each year- a lot of it illegally.

In a meeting to decide the fate of the tuna, scientists said that 10 tons of tuna would be needed if we want the species to recover. The ministers proposed 29.5 tons, an amount that the tuna couldn’t recover from. The fisherman disobeyed, catching more than 60 tons of fish. That’s more than twice the amount the ministers proposed, and 6 times  the amount the tuna needed to recover. In the Mediterranean Sea, companies like Ricardo Fuentes & Sons, Eclofish and other companies form partnerships and purchase Purse Seiners and Spotter planes, specially designed to catch Bluefin Tuna. Mieglo Bregazzi commented in a National Geographic article, “They’re slaughtering everything. The fish don’t stand a chance.”

Purse Seiners are boats with sophisticated  radar and net systems, that connect with spotter planes who tell them where there are schools of Bluefin tuna. Not like the Italian government is doing a thing about the planes, even though planes are flying in June, which is illegal.

Cod Fish

Another problem was the Cod, a fish that fed the world for centuries, were gone by the 1990s. Industrial fishing had caught tons of cod. Cod fishing is a traditional thing, and villages have a way to do it. They used to cast a line out with as many hooks attached that fit in their boat, but now they are limited to 2,000 hooks, each baited with herring. Even 15-years after cod fishing was banned, the cod still haven’t recovered.

Many spots all over the world have been over-fished – a devastating world catch of about 100 million pounds. Some scientists predict that if fishing rates continue like this- by 2048, all the edible fish in the ocean could be gone.

What would we do without seafood- for example, in Sengal a fish that is threatened is a main food source?

People all over the world are trying to solve this problem- and there right to try. One way to try to save the sea creatures is to create a system like Alaska’s in over-fished spots. Alaska’s system is strict- which I learned about in The End of the Line. Each fishing season, a flare marks the beginning of a mad rush in fishing, and people monitor boats strictly to keep them inside the fishing radius. Another way is to create marine reserves for threatened and endangered marine animals/plants. Mankind must slow down on their fishing- our entire communities could starve.

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