Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Op-ed: Missing the big picture of overfishing

On the eve of the 17th Annual European Seafood Exposition, the Guardian recently published an article thats asks whether environmental policy should be managed by scientists, rather than politicians. According to data provided by the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), 88% of European community fish stocks are overfished. Who's to blame? Perhaps the European policy-makers, who have consistently exceeded limits suggested by scientists (find the WWF data here). Perhaps the fishing industry or it's consumers. In any case, the European Commission recently proposed "radical reform" to the Common Fisheries Policy, a top-down approach that has proven to be the only real means of efficient change in environmental policy.

Personally, and forgive the Op-ed outburst, overfishing represents an inability to understand and address problems far more fundamental than global warming. Within the global warming debate, there are people who simply do not believe it is happening, or believe humans have a part in it, and thereby justify their action or inaction. However, within the overfishing debate, there is far less room for dispute. The issue is directly tied to economies, and is therefore much more quantifiable. There are much much fewer fish than there should be. There are many more unemployed people because of it. So when I look at the Annual Seafood Exposition's website and see banners proclaiming "Thailand: Kitchen of the World," I cant help but think about how the 86% decline in catch between 1961-1991 in Southeast Asia. I am extremely privileged resident of a rich country, and the plight of those in some developing countries is worse than I could imagine. But when a city like Brussels stands up to celebrate what will surely be the collapse of not only a global marketplace, but a global ecosystem, I find myself entirely unsympathetic.

See the full Guardian article here.

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