Monday, March 27, 2006

Fisheries being plundered, researchers say

By Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post | March 27, 2006

Highly mobile fishing fleets are exploiting the sea's resources at an unsustainable rate, according to a new paper published Friday by more than a dozen international researchers in the journal Science.

The paper, which looks at how ''roving bandits" swoop in and plunder fisheries at a rapid rate, examines how some fish populations have collapsed within a matter of years. In Maine, the sea urchin became a popular commodity in Japanese sushi markets in the mid-1980s: After peaking in 1993, the catches declined precipitously.

The paper, authored by 15 Canadian, Australian, US, Swedish, and Dutch ecologists, social scientists, and resource economists, concludes that even marine protected areas such as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the largest marine protected area in the world, ''is too small to fully maintain stocks of marine mammals, turtles and sharks that migrate across its boundaries."

Dalhousie University professor Boris Worm, one of the co-authors, said ''existing marine protected areas are too small, too few and too far apart to prevent the tragedy of the oceans, which is arising due to the unbridled demand for seafood."

The study cited new export demands from the restaurant and aquarium trades, more sophisticated fishing technology, and rapid air transport of fish.

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