Tag Archives: fishing

Vaquita and Totoaba–endangered fish as delicacy

fish bladder factory californa

The most recent estimate puts the remaining numbers of vaquita, a porpoise found only in the waters of the Sea of Cortés, Mexico, at just 60, down from 100 two years ago…. The vaquita has been a victim of the shrimp and totoaba fisheries, showing up as bycatch in gillnets.

The totoaba is also an endangered species but its swim bladder is a delicacy in China, selling for as much as US $5,000 per kilogram in the U.S. and a great deal more in China. The matter has been taken up by Agriculture Secretary José Calzada Rovirosa with Chinese officials in an effort to stop the illegal consumption of the bladders.  Vaquitas are not only being killed by totoaba fishing. When illegal fishermen are pursued by the Mexican Navy, they often cut their nets and set them adrift, becoming an additional threat to the porpoise.

Removing these “ghost nets” will be one of the steps taken before the implementation of an assisted breeding program, said marine mammal expert Lorenzo Rojas Bracho from the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change.

There are doubts about the feasibility of a breeding program as well as concerns about the risk. “We have no idea whether it is feasible to find, capture and maintain vaquitas in captivity much less whether they will reproduce,” said vaquita expert Barbara Taylor of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Excerpt from Assisted breeding for endangered vaquita?, Mexco News Daily, June 28, 2016

Marine Protected Areas: PIPA, Kiribati

Phoenix islands Protected Area.  Image from wikipedia

After years of claiming untruthfully that the world’s most fished marine protected area was “off limits to fishing and other extractive uses,” President Anote Tong of the Pacific island state of Kiribati and his cabinet have voted to close it to all commercial fishing by the end of the year.  The action, if implemented, would allow populations of tuna and other fish depleted by excessive fishing to return to natural levels in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), a patch of ocean the size of California studded with pristine, uninhabited atolls.

The move comes at a time global fish populations are steadily declining as increasingly efficient vessels are able to extract them wholesale from ever-more-remote and deep waters around the globe.  While no-take zones of comparative size exist in Hawaii, the Chagos Islands and the Coral Sea, none are as rich in marine life, making this potentially the most effective marine reserve in the world.,,,

In a speech still he gave at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit two years ago still visible on Youtube, Tong mentions “the initiative of my country in closing off 400,000 square kilometres of our [waters] from commercial fishing activities,” calling it “our contribution to global ocean conservation efforts.”

In fact, when PIPA was created, only in the three percent of the reserve that’s around the islands, where virtually no fishing was going on, fishing was banned. In the rest of the reserve, the catch increased, reaching 50,000 tonnes in 2012 – an unheard-of amount in any protected area.

Christopher Pala, Kiribati Bans Fishing in Crucial Marine Sanctuary, IPS, May 15, 2014

Bay of Bengal: ports against fishing

Strait_of_Malacca. Image from wikipedia

Bangladesh’s Chittagong, has… become a bottleneck. The Bangladeshis are modernising it… China is putting $200m towards upgrading the airport at Cox’s Bazar, the country’s southernmost tip, to attract investment and tourists.

Myanmar’s …new government, keen for foreign inflows to help rebuild the economy, has been approving projects that sat idle for years. Sittwe is one, but it looks small compared with the Dawei project on Myanmar’s Tenasserim coast… a deepwater port, industrial zone and highways to connect it with distant Bangkok, estimated to cost $8.5 billion.Thailand’s rulers dabbled for centuries with the idea of building a canal across the Kra isthmus, which would link their own gulf directly to the Andaman Sea and save days of costly shipping through the Strait of Malacca. Dawei should do the trick…. The Japanese are taking advantage of Myanmar’s opening to build a riverine port called Thilawa, south of Yangon.

The Chinese are exploring ways round their own Malacca-strait dilemma. They have been building new oil and gas pipelines across the whole of Myanmar starting from a new port-terminal at Kyaukphyu, near Sittwe….China’s activity in the Bay of Bengal is purely “defensive” [some say] but Indians versed in the “string of pearls” theory, which sees Chinese-built ports encircling India, will not be much comforted.

Amid the sometimes airy speculation, it is relatively easy to predict the effects on the repurposed waters of the bay. Yugraj Yadava, the director of an environmental watchdog in Chennai, says increased shipping is already eroding traditional livelihoods and polluting the sea. About 31% of the world’s coastal fishermen live and work on the Bay of Bengal, and they stand to lose huge tracts to the port-builders (and to rising sea levels, too). Mr Yadava says the bay still has some of the world’s healthiest natural fisheries, but they are under threat, not least from non-native species that stow away in long-haulers’ ballast.

Collisions between fishing vessels and commercial ships are becoming more frequent, as are snagged nets. All this will probably accelerate in the next few years. Before the Bay of Bengal falls victim to its new-found popularity, it might be good if some of its beneficiaries were to build a transnational maritime authority, to limit the damage.

Excerpts, The Bay of Bengal: New bay dawning, Economist,Apr. 27, 2013, at 40

Rights-Based Fisheries as an Answer to Unregulated Fishing

New research from Chris Costello and Steve Gaines of the University of California, Santa Barbara (under peer review for the journal Science) reckons that those unassessed fisheries are gravely depleted, with on average about half the fishy biomass they need to maintain their maximum annual yield (the usual definition of sustainability). Another analysis, using the same method, of around 1,500 fisheries last year reached similar results. Both suggest the least-known fisheries are the most damaged.  This conflicts with the sunnier analysis of industrial fishing fleets, based largely on expensive studies of a few hundred fisheries, mostly in European and American waters. These are depleted but generally recovering, thanks to recent reforms.

That these turn out to be exceptional cases is unsurprising. The rapacious habits of fishermen and perverse effects of the subsidies some extract from governments are well known. Sometimes overfishing stems from ignorance and sometimes from short-termism, exacerbated by the belief that whatever they don’t take, others will. The cost is enormous. Besides harbouring millions of species, fisheries provide the primary source of protein for a billion people and livelihoods for hundreds of millions, most of them poor. The World Bank reckons that benefits (such as income and food) lost by overfishing between 1974 and 2008 amount to $2.2 trillion.

More happily, the new assessment reckons that only 2% of fisheries have so far collapsed—defined as a fall to less than a tenth of the historical biomass. Previous estimates were higher, at up to 30%. Yet incidences of collapse are rising, the researchers stress; and once collapsed, fisheries do not necessarily recover. Shoals of northern cod have not yet returned to the Grand Banks fishery off Newfoundland, which collapsed in 1992……

Above all, fishermen need better incentives to manage stocks properly. This has been tried in several ways. In Iceland and elsewhere they have a tradable share of a scientifically determined quota. Or they can be given long-term rights—akin to property rights—over an expanse of sea….

According to a 2008 study by Messrs Costello, Gaines and others, this approach works: fisheries where such rights are in force are only half as likely to collapse as the average fishery. Yet the spread of such schemes has been woefully slow; only a few hundred mainly rich-world fisheries have adopted them so far. Though sensible in theory, rights-based schemes are hard to get right in practice. Getting locals on board can be difficult and is a slow process at best. If the target species is especially valuable or slow-growing, overfishing (at least in narrow economic terms) is rational. That may make monitoring and enforcement impractically costly.

Rights-based fisheries are not the only answer to overfishing. In particular, a lot more of the sea needs protecting from any fishing at all. Yet there are few better ways to make fishermen control themselves.

Fisheries: Lost property, Economist, Feb. 25, 2012, at 71

Saving the Species; Molibe Marine Protected Areas

Some of the world’s most endangered marine life could be saved from extinction by establishing mobile nature reserves that would protect vulnerable species as they moved around the oceans, scientists say.  The initiative could provide safe havens for endangered loggerhead and leatherback turtles, albatrosses, sharks and other travelling species, and sea life that is abandoning its historic territories in response to climate change.  Under the proposals, trawlers would agree to avoid certain stretches of the sea at set times of the year when endangered species are mating, spawning or passing through. Those ocean regions might move with the seasons, ocean currents and long-term environmental events like El Niño, the researchers said.

Mobile marine reserves could bolster existing protected areas that draw an invisible cordon around fixed regions of the oceans, such as coral reefs and sea mounts, where ecological diversity is linked to geographical featuresInstead of restricting areas by their location, mobile reserves would identify particular conditions that attract marine life “The stationary reserves do little to protect highly mobile animals, like most of the fish, turtles, sharks and seabirds,” said Larry Crowder, science director at the Centre for Ocean Solutions at Stanford University. “We think of protected areas as places that are locked down on a map. But places in oceans are not locked down, they move.”

The idea was proposed at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver.One potential mobile marine reserve could protect the north Pacific convergence zone, a region where two giant currents meet head-on, bringing plankton, small fish, turtles and major predators together. The zone is always teeming with life, but it moves from season to season.

Hopes of creating mobile marine reserves have been around for more than a decade, but Crowder said that only in recent years has the concept become plausible because of improvements in satellite imaging and GPS tagging of species. With these technologies, marine biologists have learned in great detail the movements of different sea creatures….

The new reserves could work in favour of fisheries by opening areas of the ocean that might otherwise be restricted. Modern trawlers are fitted with GPS equipment and could have maps updated each year or season to make clear which areas were off limits to protect vulnerable species.  The initiative would not prevent unlawful fishing, but would help trawlers that were trying to work the oceans without pushing species to the brink of extinction.

Ian Sample, ‘Mobile nature reserves’ could save marine species from extinction,Guardian, Feb. 18, 2012

 

Indigenous Peoples against the Waste Pipeline: human rights

Fishers and indigenous people in southern Chile have petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in their 15-year conflict with Celulosa Arauco y Constitución (CELCO), a paper pulp company which plans to dump toxic waste in the ocean, and with the Chilean state for alleged human rights violations.

The Valdivia pulp mill, one of several owned by CELCO, is located 500 metres from the south bank of the Cruces river in the Los Ríos region, upstream from the Carlos Anwandter Nature Sanctuary and 40 kilometres from the Bay of Mehuín (or Maiquillahue), the home of communities that depend on fishing for a living.  The company wants to lay a 40-kilometre waste pipeline from the pulp mill to Mehuín, including a 2-kilometre undersea extension, that would discharge the plant’s effluents directly into the ocean at a depth of 18 metres.  Small-scale fishers and people belonging to the Lafkenche (“people of the coast”) branch of the indigenous Mapuche community, living on the Bay of Mehuín, 800 kilometres south of Santiago, have been fighting the pipeline project since 1996.

In 2004 the company began discharging its effluents into the local Cruces river, but after a massive die-off and migration of black-necked swans (Cygnus melancoryphus) in the Anwandter Nature Sanctuary, in 2006 it resumed its original plan to build the waste pipeline to the ocean.  The Valdivia pulp mill produces 550,000 tonnes of pulp a year for export. In March, however, production had to be suspended due to the low rate of flow in the Cruces river, which fell below five cubic metres a second – the lowest limit established by the authorities for pulp production, which consumes enormous quantities of water.  Chile provides six percent of the 48 million tonnes of paper pulp traded on the world market every year. Last year, it brought in export revenues of 1.79 billion dollars. The forestry sector as a whole contributes 3.1 percent of GDP.

CELCO was granted permission to build the waste pipeline Feb. 24, 2010 by the Regional Commission for the Environment (COREMA), and it is expected to be completed in two years’ time. The population that will be affected by the project includes 20 coastal communities of Lafkenche people and small-scale fishers in Mehuín, Cheuque, La Barra and Mississipí.  Another 20 or so native communities further south and associations of fisherfolk with nearly 1,000 members, in neighbouring bays and inland areas, could also suffer harmful effects….

The Committee for the Defence of the Sea, an organization of local people, lodged appeals in the courts against the environmental permit granted by COREMA, and demanded protection for the integrity and lives of fisherfolk and Lafkenche people, and for the right of the native peoples to live on the coast, which is guaranteed under Chilean law. But the Supreme Court denied the motion. When all efforts to obtain justice in the national courts failed, the Committee for the Defence of the Sea took its case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), requesting urgent precautionary measures and a restraining order against any work related to the construction of the pipeline…[O]ne of the legal petitions has to do with the rights of native communities, who were not consulted over this project in their territory, as stipulated in International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, which came into effect in Chile Sept. 15, 2009…

CELCO, which owns five pulp mills in Chile and another in Argentina, has a record for polluting. Operations have had to be suspended at the Valdivia plant on several occasions because of judicial injunctions, among other reasons for exceeding its permitted production limit.

Excerpt, Pamela Sepúlveda, Fishing Villages Turn to Int’l Justice in Fight Against Waste Duct, Inter Press Service, May 5, 2011

Fishermen versus Dolphins in the Amazon: implementing environmental law

[F}or Ronan Benício Rego, a fisherman…pink dolphins are both rival — and prey.  Standing on the muddy banks of the river here recently, he said he had killed river dolphins many times before, to use as bait to catch a catfish that is sold to unknowing consumers in Brazil and Colombia.  “We want to make money,” said Mr. Rego, 43, the president of the community here. Two dead dolphins could yield about $2,400 in catfish sales in a single day of fishing, he said.  But bait is not the only objective. Though the pink dolphins are protected by law, the fishermen see them as nettlesome competitors for the catches that feed their families, and their frustration sometimes boils over…

The illegal slaughtering of dolphins is on the rise here, threatening one of the storied symbols of the Amazon and illustrating the challenge of policing environmental law in such a vast territory, researchers and government officials say. Hundreds, if not thousands, of the estimated 30,000 river dolphins plying the Amazon region are dying every year, they say.

Miguel Miguéis, 41, a Portuguese researcher from the Federal University of Western Pará who studies river dolphin populations around the city of Santarém, said the high rate of killings could lead to their extinction. “They are killing their culture, their folklore,” Dr. Miguéis said. “They are killing the Amazon.”  Several hours upriver from here, in the biological reserve of Rio Trombetas, where river dolphins swim in an Amazon tributary teeming with piranhas and crocodiles, Dr. Miguéis said he had seen the dolphin population fall to a little over 50 earlier this year from about 250 in 2009…

Brazil’s environmental laws strictly prohibit the killing of dolphins and many other wild animals. Violators could face up to four years in prison. But enforcement in the vast Amazon is a huge challenge for Ibama, the Brazilian environmental protection agency, which has 1,300 agents covering the entire country. The Brazilian Amazon alone is larger than India.  Fishermen in Igarapé, about three hours by boat from Santarém, said agents from Ibama had never visited their community of about 350 people…In the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, many people are indifferent about the killings. At an open-air market in Santarém, vendors sell genitals removed from dead dolphins as good luck charms for sex and love. Jars of oil from river dolphin fat sit alongside oil from anacondas and crocodiles. The dolphin oil potion, which sells for about $25 a small bottle, is used to treat rheumatism, a saleswoman explained.  At a Santarém fish market, customers said they had no idea fishermen were using dolphins to catch the catfish, known as piracatinga in Brazil. Still, they said protecting dolphins was not a priority.  [T]he slaughtering of Amazonian dolphins has become a serious concern for Brazilian officials. Mr. Evaristo said Ibama planned to investigate the possibility that Brazilian fishermen were involved in an organized criminal operation with ties to Colombia.

Excerpts from ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO, Fishermen in Amazon See a Rival in Dolphins, NY Times, April 16, 2011.