Monday, November 10, 2008

Emptying Oceans

There was a time in my life when the ocean seemed so big, it was almost unfathomable (pun intended). There was a time in my childhood when I went on a boat trip, to Okinawa, and was days without sight of land. There was nothing so big as the ocean to me. Now it looks like we've gotten in sight of the end, for the seas on this earth.

Per capita meat consumption more than doubled over the past half-century as the global economy expanded. It is expected to double again by 2050. Which raises the question, what does all that meat eat before it becomes meat?

Increasingly the answer is very small fish harvested from the ocean and ground into meal and pressed into oil. According to a new report by scientists from the University of British Columbia and financed by the Pew Institute for Ocean Science, 37 percent by weight of all the fish taken from the ocean is forage fish: small fish like sardines and menhaden. Nearly half of that is fed to farmed fish; most of the rest is fed to pigs and poultry.

The problem is that forage fish are the feedstock of marine mammals and birds and larger species of fish. In other words, farmed fish, pigs and poultry — and the humans who eat them — are competing for food directly with aquatic species that depend on those forage fish for their existence. It’s as if humans were swimming in schools in the ocean out-eating every other species.

We're eating the world. It would take so little to plan, to make our consumption work within the boundaries of our earth. It does appear that, like pollution, food supply management is about to be demanded of us for our own survival.

I've told this before, but when I was in my late teens, I was in Ocean City, MD, when the dolphins migrated south for the winter, and we watched them swim by in an unending line, for days. The last time I was on the east coast for the dolphin migration, it was sparse, with only a few dolphins here and there. We ate the rest.

(h/t to Tim Bousquet)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

All these environment and resource problems share the same root cause : there are already N times too many people on this finite Earth, where N is somewhere between 2 and 200.

Support for Planned Parenthood and its international equivalents is one of the deepest-possible environmental acts.

7:43 AM  

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