Fishing industry fights over bones

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 1995:

“This meeting was called to fight over
the meat,” reads the caption below a popular
office calendar cartoon showing wild-eyed and
desperate Neanderthals. “There is no meat. It is
moved that we fight over the bones.”
The cartoon could describe the col-
lapse of oceanic ecosystems. Recent editions of
the journals Science and Nature warned of
crashing zooplankton and algae populations, as
result of pollution, global warming, and over-
fishing, which is taking biomass out of the
oceans faster than it can be restored. But instead
of making oceanic habitat restoration a global
priority, both fishing fleets and the political rep-
resentatives of fishing nations fight with increas-
ing fury for whatever fish remain, with ominous
implications for world peace as well as for
aquatic animals.

Recent incidents:
Morocco on March 16 barred
European Union fishers from its Atlantic
waters until May 15, to preserve stocks.
British fishers showered Fisheries
Minister Michael Jack with flour on March 18
for compromising with Spain in negotiations
over fishing rights.
Burmese frontier guards on
March 20 wounded two Bangladeshi fishers
who allegedly strayed to the wrong side of the
Naf river, the national boundary.
A Croatian patrol boat wounded
Italian fishing captain Ezio Bastianelli a n d
impounded his boat on March 23, alleging he
had trawled 3.5 miles inside Croat waters.
Lebanese fishers asked United
Nations Secretary General Boutros-Ghali to
pressure Israel into lifting a blockade of their
traditional fishing grounds off Tyre, closed
February 8 for alleged security reasons.
The Philippine Navy over the
weekend of March 25-26 boarded four Chinese
fishing boats near the disputed Spratly islands,
holding 50 crew members and seizing live tur-
tles, as well as cyanide and explosives allegedly
used to stun fish in illegal coral reef fishing.
Taiwain on March 29 sent heavily
armed patrol boats to the Spratly and Pratas
islands, to reinforce a marine garrison posted on
Taiping, the largest of the Spratlys.
U.N. peacekeepers on March 31
won the release of Greek Cypriot fisher
Andreas Constantinou, 55, 10 days after Turk
Cypriots captured him while allegedly fishing in
Turkish waters––a charge he denied, claiming
he signed a confession under duress.
Ireland arrested seven foreign
v e s s e l s for exceeding catch limits in a week-
long coastal sweep, April 4-11.
Seeking a ban on fish imports
from outside the EU, French fishers trashed
Norwegian and Spanish trucks on April 11 in
the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer. The next day the
EU banned Japanese fish imports due to “unsan-
itary processing”, outraging Japan, which sold
the EU $3.7 billion worth of fish in 1994.
Morocco on April 12 freed the
crew of a South Korean trawler, held since
February for alleged illegal fishing, after the
boat owner paid $150,000 in fines––but the
crew refused to leave, demanding back pay and
compensation for the death of their captain,
who was shot dead when the boat was seized.
South Korea claims the boat was attacked while
adrift with engine trouble.
Estonian patrol boats repeatedly
seized Latvian trawlersin the Gulf of Riga.
Taiwanese fishers on April 14
firebombed a Chinese boat. No one was hurt.
Britain on April 14 seized the
Spanish trawler Chimbote off Plymouth.
Canada on April 15 reached
agreement with the EU over rights to fish tur-
bot on the Grand Banks, ending a standoff with
Spanish patrol boats sent to protect fishing ves-
sels after Canadian patrol boats seized the
Spanish trawler Estai on March 9, and cut the
nets of several other trawlers.
Predicting “the likely complete col-
lapse of the Massachusetts fishing industry with-
in the next six months,” because fish stocks
have not recovered despite the closure of 6,000
square miles of coastal waters to fishing since
December 1994, Massachusetts governor
William Weld on March 21 asked President Bill
Clinton to declare the state’s fishing industry a
“natural disaster,” authorizing federal aid for
unemployed fishers. The claim depends upon
proving that the loss of fish is due to “uncontrol-
lable forces of nature.”
Said Massachusetts Commissioner
of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Environmental
Law John C. Phillips, “There has been a
tremendous population boom of certain fish
that prey on young ground fish including sea
herring, mackerel, and dogfish.” Scientific
response was skeptical.
Endangered species
Failing in attempts to close an
“experimental” sea cucumber fishing sea-
s o n opened last October off the Galapagos
islands, where an influx of fish pirates and
squatters have increased the human popula-
tion 40% in five years, “Ecuadorean officials
appear ready to admit they are powerless to
enforce any prohibition or limits on how
many creatures are pulled from the sea,”
Esther Schrader of the Los Angeles Daily
News reported on April 9. The new arrivals
kill anything they can eat or sell, including
more than 100 highly endangered Galapagos
tortoises during the past 15 months. Paul
Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society thinks he could drive them out with
the Edward Abbey, the fastest Sea Shepherd
vessel, if he could get refueling at sea, but
so far he’s been unable to raise the necessary
funds. (Help at 3107-A Washington Blvd.,
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292.)
Coelacanths, believed to have
been extinct for 80 million years when found
alive off the Comoros Islands near
Madagascar in 1938, are in steep decline
over the past three years, warns Max Planck
Institute researcher Hans Fricke. “We
believe,” Fricke wrote in the March 23 issue
of Nature, “that this alarming decline is due
to local fishing habits.”
Fresh water fish
Florida hopes to raise 300,000 to
600,000 big striped bass from eggs
squeezed out of the belly of a record 48-
pound female caught on April 9. The biggest
bass previously caught in Florida was a
42.25-pounder, in 1993. Bigger bass are
being caught in part because sport fishing has
seriously depleted the species in Panhandle
rivers, leaving more food for the survivors.
Unexplained dieoffs of young
lake perch have cut Lake Michigan perch
numbers by 50% to 75% over the past five
years. The Illinois Dept. of Environmental
Conservation has responded by cutting com-
mercial quotas by two-thirds and suspending
perch fishing for the month of June, when
about 25% of the annual catch are hooked.
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