In June of 2013 the international body that manages tuna fish in the Eastern Pacific Ocean drafted and approved a resolution to protect whale sharks. The resolution isn’t groundbreaking; the New York Times didn’t report, Anderson Cooper wasn’t on the scene, and Greenpeace didn’t raise the flag. In fact, in the year it took to make U.S. compliance official via rulemaking in September 2014, even the fish-heads and whale shark lovers here at Ocean Conservancy barely noticed. This is a good thing.
Too often fisheries management is mired in relatively small, but high-profile, fights. The fact that the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) quietly prohibited tuna fishermen, who hail from many nations around the Pacific, from using whale sharks as de facto Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) marks another small but important step towards saving some of the world’s most iconic species and preserving a healthy ocean.
On a recent day that would otherwise have been perfect for fishing, a group of Maine fishermen and lobstermen opted to remain indoors. They gathered to discuss an issue serious enough to tie up the boats: the future of fishing in the face of climate change.
Increasing carbon pollution and its impacts on the ocean is something that may seem distant and far away for many. But fishermen are seeing changes now and living new realities today. Members of Maine’s fishing communities met recently to discuss these changes during a workshop hosted by the Island Institute, a Maine group dedicated to sustaining local coastal communities.
Shifting fish populations due to warming waters are bringing new species to Maine and pushing others out. Lobsters are more plentiful than ever, a would-be boon except for an excess of “shedders” (also thought to be because of a warming ocean) that sell for a much lower rate than the usual hard-shelled individuals.
Green crabs, an invasive species, have moved north as waters have warmed, and are eating their way through the local shoreline, leading local clammer Walt Coffin to conclude, “We’ll be out of business in two years.”
A Seattle Chef prepares crisp smelt while learning about the local impacts of ocean acidification – credit Zach Lyons
Earlier this April, Ocean Conservancy and the Seattle Chefs Collaborative co- hosted an event featuring what was probably the most delicious seafood in the world. The Seattle Chef’s Collaborative is a local chapter of a national organization that brings chefs together to meet, learn, and advocate. They are not a traditional conservation organization, but in this case were gathered to talk about little-known local species, a problem called ocean acidification, and to enjoy their colleagues’ creations featuring the very species discussed.
Ocean acidification, caused by rising CO₂ emissions being absorbed by the ocean can be a pretty daunting topic. We are always asking ourselves, “how do we move this conversation from small groups of scientists and managers to the bus stops and dinner tables where most of us hang out”
Well, everyone has to eat, and for the most part, they enjoy doing so.