The Committee on Natural Resources Doesn’t Eat Sushi
(April 18, 2012) About 15 years ago in an interview with a South Pacific Fisheries official about the assessment of tuna stocks, I was told, “There’s just too much water mixed with all those fish.” The statement was made in reference to the accuracy of estimates.
Since then, assessment technology has greatly improved and according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 70 percent of global fish species are either fully exploited or depleted.
Bluefin tuna, Chilean sea bass, green sea urchin, shark and orange roughy are just five ocean dwellers that the world is eating into extinction. Other stocks are suffering from habitat degradation and as a consequence of other human actions.
Westerners, who’ve jumped on the Oriental Express and acquired a taste for Sushi are a huge factor where urchins and the Bluefin are concerned.
A popular stable in Sushi bars, “Uni” is a sweet, creamy dish made from sea urchin. Its rise in popularity, almost two decades ago was a windfall for Maine’s fishing industry where they hauled in about $33 million in 1994. In 2010, Maine’s fishermen brought in just 2.6 million pounds of uni.
Western Atlantic bluefin tuna populations have declined by 80 percent since the 1970s, when demand and prices for the fish skyrocketed. The eastern stock of Atlantic bluefins has decreased by about 60 percent in the past decade, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
It sounds bad enough but many of the world’s fisheries are doing even worse.
President Barack Obama’s National Ocean Council has created a draft implementation plan designed to monitor stocks, conduct research on stressors and investigate and recommend ecosystem protection areas or sanctuaries.
The first National Ocean Policy and the establishment of a National Ocean Council was created by President Obama by Executive Order in July 2009.
But Republicans should be given a lot of credit: In 2004 the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy released its final report, “An Ocean Blueprint.” This report, commissioned by a Republican-led Congress and written by a panel of experts appointed by President George W. Bush, included a lynchpin recommendation that the president “begin immediately to implement a national ocean policy by establishing the National Ocean Council through an executive order.”
But more recently, the National Ocean Policy has been taking fire from opponents, citing “job-killing regulations,” according to Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) and would mean the “death of all land-use planning” in this country, in the words of Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA).
According to the American Progress website on April 2, Rep. Hastings, who chairs the Committee on Natural Resources sent a letter to his colleagues in the House Appropriations Committee -the holders of the congressional purse
strings -asking them to “prohibit the use of funds for the implementation of the National Ocean Policy.”
Specifically, the National Ocean Policy’s Draft Implementation Plan calls for:
- Sustaining ocean observing systems that provide critical data for fishery stock assessments
- Conducting research on what stressors (habitat degradation, pollution, global climate change, etc.) affect fish stocks other than fishing mortality
- Prioritizing a National Shellfish Initiative to investigate potential ecosystem and economic benefits of shellfish aquaculture
- Identifying key ecosystem protection areas to enhance the quality of habitat that provides sanctuary and nurseries for the “more than half of all fish caught in US waters [that] depend on the estuaries and coastal wetlands at some point in their life cycles”
- Understanding and combating hypoxia (lack of oxygen) caused by polluted runoff from rivers and streams that can lead to massive fish kills, harmful algal blooms, and other phenomena that adversely affect fish populations