Friday, September 25, 2009


Our seas, and the life they sustain, are under severe threat. Global fisheries' stocks have crashed in many places, leaving the small, native populations they once supported high and dry. Dying reefs and protein crises among Africans have also surfaced in recent years. The causes are many, but the main killers of our seas are: our governments.

Oil exploration is one area in which governments have failed spectacularly, as its' presence sparks a loss of all common sense in our leaders, We are all familiar with oil spills and leaks, but this goes a lot deeper. Their conduct, especially when facing the current oil shortage is disgraceful; instead of using the shortage to push for biofuels, solar power or hydrogen fuel, they instead began leasing new oilfields in ever-more fragile areas, A good example is Alaska's icy North Slope and the Beaufort Sea. Needless to say, drilling for much harder-to-reach oil pockets is more environmentally damaging, more threatening to local population and more costly.

When it comes to fisheries, governments are again incapable, insensible and at times dishonest. Set fishing quotas often lack enforcement; officials are also often heavily corrupt. This allows fishing companies to catch double/ triple the allowed amount. Nations which import plenty of endangered fish, like Japan and China, enact laws full of loopholes, like Japan's phony scientific-whaling laws. Many poorer nations, meanwhile, allow excessive exports of fish to foreign markets, leading local fishermen to use illegal nets to capture thousands of fish in the hope that they will catch expensive fish like shole or shrimp. Their nets usually grab 'bycatch'- fish like rays, squid, etc., which they dump overboard, exploiting a lack of laws on such practices and wasting valuable protein for their starving people on shore.

Judge governments by their record on shipping and most deserve to be chucked out of office. Aging ships, lacking laws mandating sustainable disposal, often travel to ship breaking yards in developing countries, usually India, which are devoid of stringent environmental laws. Polychlorinated biphenyls and asbestos are typically leached into the seas, as the hulls are discarded in ship graveyards. Governments have also failed to control ship movement in areas rich in sea grass, which, upon destruction by ship propellers, could trigger crashes in aquatic populations.

Moreover, governments the world over have impeded conservation by not assisting scientific research. Ocean agencies (unless they deal with oil exploration), and national parks agencies, typically are not granted high budget allocations. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Research Program Act of 2009 only granted $33.5 million dollars to the NOAA for 2009 purposes, while two U.S. commissions recommend the budget for ocean research be doubled. Governments also ignore scientific predictions and studies about how development could affect oceans; as in the North Slope case, the Alaskan and federal American government repeatedly ignored warnings of reduced biodiversity.

Now, the public needs to extensively broaden its' knowledge of what it can do to save our seas. Following Greenpeace and WWF campaigns on the issue is a very good start, as are changing our own habits that cause the problem- no more sharks' fin soup, turtle eggs, or bluefin tuna sushi. Awareness is the first step to dragging the conspiracy out of the shadows and finally killing it dead.

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