Book Review: Saving the Oceans 101

Ted Danson (yes, that Ted Danson) isn’t your typical ocean activist. Though he is best known as the bartender on Cheers, he has been actively involved in marine conservation issues for more than 25 years. While living in California to work on Cheers, he took a walk on the beach with his daughters. When they came across a sign that read “water polluted, no swimming”, he didn’t know how to explain to his disappointed children what was wrong with the ocean. He decided to learn more, began to work with local scientists and conservationists, and eventually co-founded the American Oceans Campaign (one of the founding members of Oceana) Danson’s decades of knowledge of and passion for the oceans are clear in his new book, “Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans And What We Can Do to Save Them”.

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Comment of the Week

This week’s comment of the week is in response to last week’s open thread.  Mark Gibson gave a thoughtful response to the challenges of high seas governance, ending with the following strategy:

End fishing subsidies at the WTO. Fishing subsidies have greatly distorted the world’s fishing capacity. By one study, the global fishing fleet needs to be reduced by 25 to 30% for it to be sustainable. There are just too many boats chasing fewer and fewer fish. In some cases, such as high seas bottom trawling, there might not be any fishing at all without subsidies, because it just isn’t profitable given the massive costs. The WTO is now working on a ban of “bad” fishing subsidies and a draft plan is out there. The hold up is that it can only be approved along with all the other work items for the Doha Round. Getting agreement on all the other stuff is a very tall order.

People often forget that national governments support large fishing fleets through subsidies. The US, for instance, learned the hard way that this isn’t the best strategy when the heavily subsidized fleet of large vessels in the northeast decimated the cod population. These subsidies make it possible to continue fishing when it wouldn’t otherwise be economically feasible, just for the political stake of having a fleet on the water and therefore a vote in high seas governance. But shouldn’t countries who choose to abstain from fishing still have a voice?


What we don’t know can hurt us – the final open thread

So far this month, we’ve asked what sustainability mean to you, what changes you’ve made to lead a more sustainable life, and what changes society needs to make. Our final open thread for Science and Sustainability month is not about the things we know, or the things we believe, but the things we don’t know. Sustainable living is fraught with ambiguity. As I hope we’ve shown a little over the month, there are no hard answers. What works well in one instance may be totally inappropriate in another instance. Making decisions based on poor data may often be necessary but must be contingent on continuous reassessment.

When thinking about a future for sustainability, what don’t we know that we need to know? What information is missing from our assessments? What information do you find lacking when trying to make personal sustainable decisions?

What is it about food?

The squishiness of the term sustainability also offers people pick of what they choose to think about and what kinds of changes they want to make in their lives. I return this week from a week of thinking about spaces of sustainability during the American Assocation of Geographers conference, where the series of sessions entitled “food alterity” was standing room only. One of the speakers started off her talk with the question “why are we all so obsessed with food, what it is about food that gets people excited where we really should be excited about energy”. She went on to give a fascinating talk about who gets to write the grower’s manual for organic strawberries (literally, it’s apparently a power struggle over legitimate knowledge). But her first question really stuck with me.

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Book Review: Five Fundamentals for Fisheries

Daniel Pauly’s research over the last 20 has provided much of the foundational theory in modern fisheries management. In 5 Easy Pieces, Daniel Pauly presents his five most influential papers, with a concise history of both the intellectual and human motivations that led to each study. The papers that were included in this volume are: Primary Production required to Sustain Global Fisheries, Fishing Down Marine Food Webs, Systematic Distortion in World Fisheries Catch Trends, Towards Sustainability in Global Fisheries, and The Future of Fisheries.

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What Societal Changes need to be Made for a Sustainable Future?

So far this month we’ve asked what Sustainability means to you and what you personally are doing to lead a more sustainable life. But not all sustainability goals can be met by individual actions. Our society is collectively on an unsustainable path.

For the third week of Science and Sustainability Month, I’d like to know what changes do we need as a society to build a more sustainable future? What are the obstacles to these changes, and what ware the solutions? Is there hope for a sustainable social revolution?

Science and Sustainability Comment of the Week

As the second week of Science and Sustainability Month comes to a close, I’d like to congratulate Rebecca Nesbit for writing the latest comment of the week.

“It makes it so much harder for consumers when there aren’t simple solutions like ‘local is better’. What I would love to see is better labeling. Just as our food in UK supermarkets has a little pie chart or equivalent on the packaging saying how much fat etc it contains, it would be great to see ‘GHG emissions in transport’ etc. Then consumers have the power to makes choices.

At work I’m doing a report about small businesses and how they can protect biodiversity. Certification is certainly something I intend to research for it”