The world’s largest food fishery is on the verge of collapse. Pollock, used to make McDonald’s fish sandwiches, frozen fish sticks, fish and chips, and imitation crabmeat, have had a population decrease of 50 percent since last year.
Our appetite for fish is exceeding the oceans' ecological limits with devastating impacts on marine ecosystems. Scientists are warning that overfishing results in profound changes in our oceans, perhaps changing them forever.
The dwindling fish populations are largely due to the enormous
amounts of fish being removed from Alaska's Bering Sea. Factory
trawlers take over a million tonnes of pollock out of the ocean
each year. The fish can't reproduce and recover as quickly as they
are being fished.
Just as the financial institutions on Wall Street collapsed due
to poor oversight and mismanagement-the pollock fishery is on the
fast-track to collapse as well. In order to avoid a collapse, the
North Pacific Fishery Management Council must take swift and
decisive action when they meet in December to reduce catch levels
and put pollock back on the path to healthier population
A Billion Dollar Industry
The pollock fishery is a billion-dollar industry. These days, it
seems when you have that much money at stake, common sense gets
thrown out the window. Each year, fishery management wants to catch
the most fish to get to the most profit. They continue to fish,
even when warning bells are going off and science tells them its
time to cut back.
Just how much pollock are they catching? Picture this- if the
pollock from the 2004 catch were laid end to end they would wrap
around the earth more than 38 times. Now, that's a lot of fish
sticks! Pollock are being fished excessively and cannot keep up
with the pressure.
Of the four Alaska pollock stocks, two are now shut down
completely and a third is just a fraction of its former size.
Despite the warning signs, including five years in a row of low
juvenile survivorship, the industry has continued to target the
pollock spawning aggregation, taking huge numbers of pregnant
females before they release their eggs. This kind of fishing
practice only deepens the problem by not allowing pollock to
reproduce, grow and mature to reproduce again.
Bering Sea Ecosystem
Scientists and conservationists have warned that unless the
Council reduces fishing pressure on Pollock - a vital forage
species for fur seals, whales, and endangered Steller sea lions -
the entire Bering Sea ecosystem could be in jeopardy of collapse.
This would prove devastating for the state's commercial fishermen
and traditional coastal communities that depend on a healthy ocean
for their livelihoods.
Swift Action is Needed
Fishing interests have no doubt played a huge role in shaping
the pollock fishery. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council
is dominated by fishing industry representatives. With exemptions
from conflict of interest laws, Council members regularly vote
against measures that would affect their bottom line.
In December, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council will
set thenew pollock catch limits for 2009. In order to restore the
pollockfishery's health, the allowable catch must be cut in half,
fishing onspawning populations suspended, and marine reserves
established toprotect critical habitats.
Witness - Learn more about our work to protect the Bering
Join the call for a global network of marine reserves.
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