Lost at Sea

On the same day (Nov. 18) that the Senate rejected the Keystone pipeline by a single vote – a huge victory for everyone concerned about climate change and the future of our civilization – the water front news was much more dismal.

  • The Pacific bluefin tuna was added to the “red list” of species threatened with extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. That’s almost entirely due to its use in the sushi and sashimi markets of Japan. With juveniles that have yet to reproduce comprising the majority of the tuna caught, the population has fallen by one-third over the past two decades.
  • Japan announced plans to greatly expand its Antarctic whaling area, under the guise of so-called “scientific research,” proposing to hunt 333 minke whales through the end of 2015. This program followed an earlier ruling by the International Court of Justice that Japanese “scientific whaling” was nothing more than commercial whaling by a different name.
  • In the Chesapeake Bay, where the EPA has finally been making progress in working with states on a clean-up plan, oral arguments are about to begin in a lawsuit to curtail the process, brought by the “Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.” Here’s the way they are looking to pull this off: a group of 21 state attorneys general – from as far away as Texas, Wyoming and Alaska – has banded together with lobbyists representing big agriculture, fertilizer, and construction. They claim, ridiculously, that if the Chesapeake plan to limit pollution goes forward, “other watersheds, including the Mississippi River Basin….could be next.”Will Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), responded that if this suit succeeds, it would mean “the most scientifically based, carefully developed pollution reduction protocol for a major body of water in the world would be taken off the table and eliminated.” In fact, as a peer-reviewed report by the CBF has found, the cleanup would bring significant economic benefits for bay states – an additional $22.5 billion a year through improved water and air quality, agricultural and seafood production, property values, and flood and hurricane protection.

This comes at a time when the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has finally approved new regulations seeking to implement a 25 percent reduction in the taking of striped bass, whose population is in the worst shape since the 1980s. More than 70 percent of the Eastern seaboard’s striped bass spawn in the Chesapeake, where their primary food supply (Atlantic menhaden) has been stripped to 90 percent of its former abundance by the Omega Protein Corporation’s trawling fleet. (The small baitfish are ground up and turned into fish oil and fish meal).

Just as steps are made in the right direction, powerful forces continue to rise up with only the pocketbook in mind. We, the people, need to rise up in equal measure.

Dick Russell