Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Fate Of The Ocean

Hi everyone. During Friday's show one of the headlines Erica gave us really floored me. Due to overfishing, seafood might actually become a thing of the past during our lifetime. USA Today reports that a report done by Science journal "predicts 90% of the fish and shellfish species that are hauled from the ocean to feed people worldwide may be gone by 2048." This is quite shocking and should be a wake up call to everyone. This isn't just about going without a shrimp cocktail. If this prediction comes true the results could be catastrophic. The article puts it into perspective:

Fish and seafood are key protein sources for a world that's expected to add another 3 billion people by 2050. But it's also a problem for people who don't eat fish. Sixty percent of Americans live within 60 miles of a coast. Declines in marine biodiversity can:

•Increase coastal flooding because of the loss of floodplains and erosion control provided by the wetlands, reefs and underwater vegetation that are a cornerstone of marine life.

•Reduce water quality by destroying the plants, shellfish and fish that are the ocean's biological filtering apparatus.

•Increase beach closure because of harmful algae blooms, such as red tide, facilitated by diminished filtering.

The news of our disappearing seafood got me thinking about our oceans. Environmental news can be hard to come by in the mainstream media. Hell, it took a massive hurricane wiping out an American city for them to even give any substantial coverage to global warming, so to expect them to cover our oceans is pretty laughable. However, massive destruction is currently occurring that most people don't even think about because we can't easily see what's under the water.

Going back to overfishing, you would assume that fishing regulations would guard against disappearing seafood, but apparently when it comes to the fishing industry the fox is in charge of the hen house. You can read more about how industry insiders are regulating themselves in this article from Mother Jones. And actually that entire issue focuses on how we are pushing our seas to the brink. I urge you to check the issue out or at least take a look at the cover story, which really breaks down how bad things have become:
Oceanic problems once encountered on a local scale have gone pandemic, and these pandemics now merge to birth new monsters. Tinkering with the atmosphere, we change the ocean’s chemistry radically enough to threaten life on earth as we know it. Making tens of thousands of chemical compounds each year, we poison marine creatures who sponge up plastics and PCBs, becoming toxic waste dumps in the process. Carrying everything from nuclear waste to running shoes across the world ocean, shipping fleets spew as much greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as the entire profligate United States. Protecting strawberry farmers and their pesticide methyl bromide, we guarantee that the ozone hole will persist at least until 2065, threatening the larval life of the sea. Fishing harder, faster, and more ruthlessly than ever before, we drive large predatory fish toward global extinction, even though fish is the primary source of protein for one in six people on earth. Filling, dredging, and polluting the coastal nurseries of the sea, we decimate coral reefs and kelp forests, while fostering dead zones.
And if all of this wasn't bad enough, did you know that for years we actually filled our oceans with weapons of mass destruction?
In the summer of 2004, a clam-dredging operation off New Jersey pulled up an old artillery shell.

The long-submerged World War I-era explosive was filled with a black tarlike substance.

Bomb disposal technicians from Dover Air Force Base, Del., were brought in to dismantle it. Three of them were injured - one hospitalized with large pus-filled blisters on an arm and hand.

The shell was filled with mustard gas in solid form.
Last year a Daily Press investigation found that a "previously classified weapons-dumping program was far more extensive than previously suspected." How bad is it?
The Army now admits that it secretly dumped 64 million pounds of nerve and mustard agents into the sea, along with 400,000 chemical-filled bombs, land mines and rockets and more than 500 tons of radioactive waste - either tossed overboard or packed into the holds of scuttled vessels.
The Daily Press investigation also found:
These weapons of mass destruction virtually ring the country, concealed off at least 11 states - six on the East Coast, two on the Gulf Coast, California, Hawaii and Alaska. Few, if any, state officials have been informed of their existence.

The chemical agents could pose a hazard for generations. The Army has examined only a few of its 26 dump zones and none in the past 30 years.

The Army can't say exactly where all the weapons were dumped from World War II to 1970. Army records are sketchy, missing or were destroyed.
Though it is unlikely mustard gas will wash up on shore, over 200 fisherman have burned by the substance over the years when they pulled it up on deck. And even though this probably won't come to a beach near you it is still devastating news for the the sea.
A drop of nerve agent can kill within a minute. When released in the ocean, it lasts up to six weeks, killing every organism it touches before breaking down into its nonlethal chemical components.

Mustard gas can be fatal. When exposed to seawater, it forms a concentrated, encrusted gel that lasts for at least five years, rolling around on the ocean floor, killing or contaminating sea life.

Sea-dumped chemical weapons might be slowly leaking from decades of saltwater corrosion, resulting in a time-delayed release of deadly chemicals over the next 100 years and an unforeseeable environmental effect. Steel corrodes at different rates, depending on the water depth, ocean temperature and thickness of the shells.
The health of our oceans isn't sexy, but at the rate we're going one day we will wake up and they'll be completely destroyed, causing devastating effects for every living organism on earth. It is clear that more attention needs to be paid to this very important subject. This is something I'd like to see 360 tackle in the future.


Anonymous Sharla said...

Human beings are notorious for not caring about the environment. It's all about "me me me" and who cares if the little animals die? I think the generations past failed to realize, take into account, or CARE, that the damage they did is ruining it for the rest of us. We're wasting our planet! Last time I checked, we haven't found a suitable replacement one....

8:59 AM  
Anonymous AndysGirl said...

I'm new here so I hope you don't mind my commenting. I agree with you that 360 should cover not only the Fate of the Ocean but should cover the various environmental problems we are faced with. I would like to see a weekly, if not nightly segment focusing on the environment.

I think the past generations felt that the oceans were such vast bodies that nothing they did would have an impact. Unfortunately, after 50 or 60 years of using the ocean as a trash can most definitely has an effect.

8:01 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

@andysgirl-I don't mind anyone commenting. Welcome to the blog and I hope to see you on here a lot.

6:08 PM  

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