By David Helvarg
A University of British Columbia report presented at last month’s American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting claims two-thirds of the world’s big fish including cod, tuna, grouper, sharks and billfish have been taken out of the sea by overfishing in a little more than a century, and many of the smaller fish taking their place are now being harvested for fishmeal.
Another report, updated from 1998 and called ‘Reefs at Risk Revisited’ is like ‘Saw 2,’ but scarier. Put together by a global network of environmental scientists and observers it claims 75 percent of coral reefs are now at risk from human activities.
“It’s been estimated that about one fourth and maybe as much as one third of all species that live in the ocean are associated with coral reefs,” says Dr. Nancy Knowlton of the Smithsonian Institution. “A recent [separate] analysis suggests that one third of all coral species are actually at risk of extinction. This makes coral the most endangered animal on the planet.”
Reefs of course also provide food, tourist revenue, storm protection and a source of pride for many tropical nations and areas like Hawaii and South Florida.
So how does one respond to the continuing drumbeat of scary bad news about our oceans and coasts? One way would be to kill the messengers by cutting funding for ocean research, education and management, which seems to be the plan now underway in Washington, D.C. This is based on the premise that if you simply choose to ignore a charging lion there’s no way it will actually…ow, ow, ow, get it off me, it’s got my head in it’s jaoww, oww, ow….