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Overfishing

by John Hocevar

August 3, 2005

As fishermen and environmentalists battle factory fishing giant Omega

Protein in the western Atlantic, overfishing continues to take its toll on

ecosystems worldwide.

In Western Australia, local officials recently sought

to draw attention to the albatross, a spectacular and highly endangered bird

known for it’s large wingspan and impressive migrations. Eighteen

albatrosses were affixed with radio transmitters, to enable enthusiasts to

be spectators, and often bettors, in the birds’ “race” from the island of

Tasmania to South Africa.

It now appears that all 18 birds starved to death in route.

Ironically, one objective of the “Big Bird Race” had been to highlight the

vulnerability of albatrosses and other fish-eating birds to long-lining, a

fishing practice that involves trailing hooked and baited lines up to 75

miles long. Longlining reportedly kills hundreds of thousands of birds each

year, including large numbers of endangered albatrosses. At the same time,

factory fishing trawlers from as far away as Ireland seek to ply Australia’s

waters, in direct competition with albatrosses and other sea birds.

Meanwhile, Houston-based Omega Protein, with it’s large fleet of spotter

planes and factory ships, is getting nervous. After years of bullying

regulators into allowing Omega to take as many fish as they want, things may

finally be about to change. On August 17th, the Atlantic States Marine

Fisheries Commission will consider putting limits on factory fishing for

menhaden. Will they listen to the hundreds of fishermen and

environmentalists who showed up at public hearings and thousands more who

faxed or emailed comments, or will they listen to one company with a proven

record of taking as many fish as they can regardless of the cost to coastal

ecosystems or the people who depend on them?

Stay tuned.

John H

John Hocevar

By John Hocevar

An accomplished campaigner, explorer, and marine biologist, John has helped win several major victories for marine conservation since becoming the director of Greenpeace's oceans campaign in 2004.

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