no more extinctions
by John Hocevar
August 8, 2007
Yesterday, the weather caught up with us. We tried waiting it out, but in the end we weren’t able to get in any dives. Today was a bit better, and we did a couple great ROV dives along the southeastern edge of Zhemchug Canyon. We encountered a large field of sea whip corals at the first site, 3 to 5 feet tall, along with numerous fish hiding among them. It was all too easy to imagine the impact dragging huge nets through this rich area could have on corals and fish alike.
On the second dive, the ROV descended right next to a boulder covered with large bubblegum corals and anemones.
We will use the video and data we collected today and on our other dives in the Bering Sea to demand that these areas be closed to destructive fishing practices. According to the reauthorized Magnuson Stevens Act, the federal fisheries law, policy makers are required to report on the distribution of corals in their jurisdiction and what steps are being taken to protect them. We have found corals on most of our dives in these canyons, but so far there is nothing to stop bottom trawlers or so-called mid-water trawlers that regularly impact the sea floor from destroying these long-lived and delicate species.
The importance of protecting the habitat that sustains marine life is on my mind today, as I read reports confirming that the Yangtze River dolphin has gone extinct. Many of the last several thousand of these 500 pound creatures, our fellow mammals, were killed by indiscriminate fishing methods – drowned in nets or caught on long lines of unbaited hooks. And many were poisoned by the pollution leached, drained, and dumped into the Yangtze.
Preventing extinctions is not a problem with just one solution. In the oceans, however, the best tool we have to protect marine biodiversity is to protect sensitive areas from fishing. It is well established that marine reserves closed to all fishing are often the most effective type of marine protected area, but in over 98% of US waters, it’s still open season.
The Bering Sea is one of the richest marine environments on earth, but even this level of abundance cannot withstand the fishing pressure it is facing today. And global warming is creating additional pressures and causing further changes that we have not begun to understand.
We will not allow magnificent creatures like the Steller sea lion and the short-tailed albatross to go the way of the Yangtze River Dolphin.
We’ll need your help, though. Are you with us?