Saturday, April 15, 2006

Project Okeanos: What About the Oceans? The Bioregional State Solutions for Ocean Degradation

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"In fact, there is only one ocean on Earth: a world ocean encompassing 70.78 percent of our planet. The ancient Greeks sensed the ocean was one and portrayed their water god Okeanos (Oceanus) as a river circling the world. Three thousand years later, modern oceanographers confirm the world ocean is connected in riverlike fashion; using a schematic known as the ocean conveyor belt, they portray Okeanos as a Möbiuslike ribbon winding through all the ocean basins, rising and falling, and stirring the waters of the world. In this manner, the surface waters we sail in the North Atlantic are destined to flow to the Arctic, to grow colder and sink, and, once at the bottom, to reverse flow southward through the Atlantic, eventually converging with the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, before surfacing in the Northeast Pacific 1,200 years from now. Centuries later, they will arrive back in the North Atlantic, having truly traveled the seven seas. Or maybe they won’t. Things are changing." --- "The Fate of the Ocean", in Mother Jones, by Julia Whitty

When you have a whole day (or weekend) to read up on it, I suggest go to Mother Jones's recent multiple article series on the "Fate of the Oceans." These are just the titles:

The Fate of the Ocean
By Julia Whitty
Assaulted by pollution, overfishing, climate change, trash, and noise, our oceans are approaching a point of no return. The health of the world they feed and protect won't be far behind.
P L U S :
Whales hit the beaches
Polar bears face extinction

Fishing boats
The Catch
By Michael W. Robbins
If America's fisheries are regulated, how can they be overfished? Because the regulators and the fishermen are one and the same.
P L U S :
Video: Mike Robbins talks fishery reform on Free Speech TV
The ocean's top enemies
A field guide to failing fish

Fisherman and his catch
Net Losses
By H. Bruce Franklin
How a football tycoon took George H. W. Bush's oil company and used it to declare war on the fish that built America.

Prepared plate of fish
Navigating the Catch of the Day
By Daniel Duane
Overfishing...mercury...but they taste so good! How to eat fish without fear

Julia Whitty Video: The Fate of the Ocean
Mother Jones Radio's Angie Coiro interviews Julia Whitty, author of The Fate of the Ocean, on Link TV.

The Dolphin Defender
Filmmaker and conservationist Hardy Jones on reasons for hope in a sea of troubles.

Fisherman and his catch I'll Take Menhaden
Should this threatened fish be an essential part of your healthy diet?

Saving the Ocean: It's a Question of Leadership
Two "ocean champions" say the problems of the ocean are fundamentally political--and so are the solutions.

Lobster How the Lobster Clawed Its Way Up
A crustacean's climb from pauper's fare to modern-day delicacy

"We All Want More Fish"
The editor of Sport Fishing magazine says many recreational fishers are conservationists at heart.

Harpooned whale (Still) Big in Japan
Thought whale hunting was a thing of the past? Think again.

I Cover the Waterfront
A science journalist evaluates media coverage of the oceans beat.

Toxic Fish and Poor Communities
A Bay Area activist raises awareness about contaminated seafood.

Pesticide in the Water
The EPA is supposed to protect our rivers and oceans. However, ...

A Guide to Environmental Non-Profits
How to distinguish groups doing good from ones that just sound good.

And, issue pages:
# Not Enough Fish in the Sea: The causes and consequences of overfishing
# How to Catch a Fish: Modern methods are more efficient than ever--and more destructive.
# Catch as Catch Can: Millions of marine animals are killed "incidentally" every year.
# Aquaculture: Fish farming offers a solution to overfishing; but is the environmental cost too high?
# Who's In Charge Here? Government and the ocean
# Marine Pollution: How the ocean became a toxic waste dump.
# Development: Are we loving our coasts to death?
# Coral Reefs: There's still time to save some reefs, but just barely.

At least read the cover article, "The Fate of the Oceans"--and perhaps peruse its links, because it helps to set the stage for what I am writing about below.

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(image: Thomas Wiewandt)

The bioregional state and the issue of the oceans

The ocean is something that I have thought about quite a lot in reference to the bioregional state: since 70%+ of the world is ocean, the bioregional state should look beyond the tip of its land-locked nose toward the high seas and integrate more global issues in such a manner that democracy and innate human protectiveness of a particular ecology can be utilized toward faciliating sustinability of the oceans as much as any watershed.

The Maritime State

Historically, except for the past 500 years, most of the world's states were political nexuses instrumentally part of environmental degradation on their landscapes--they were limited to land based states of course--until they took to the high seas and replicated the model there.

Two phenomena ramped up a land based state politics of environmental degradation into a maritime based environmental degradation on a much larger scale. This occurred due to much less costly sea shipping between the loosely tied plantations, forts, and artificial harbor constructions. The maritime state was (and still is) has an innate archipelago quality, tied together by state geo-political desires of trade and war.

First, was the expansion of these "maritime states" themselves--a novel phenomena of European states. Seemingly the phenomena was coaxed due to historic geography of European commerce for thousands of years in a nearly land locked "safer sea" of the Mediterranean which put several different societies all within easy trade reach of each other. The Roman Empire developed into a maritime state. However, by the 1450s, permanent navies and large scaled merchant marine tonnages in Europe were one in the same once more, as they had been in Rome.

This is particularly clear in the age of the 'gray community' of privateers, pirates and navies that were all one category. By the late 1600s with English and Dutch wars, and subsquently England vs. France on the high seas or in the American Revolution (which was England vs. France once more in many ways) navies were mostly state sanctioned piracy frameworks, with raiding for private profit of the outfitters themselves. The U.S still has authorization in its (nearly turned to ash) Constitution, to issue "letters of marque and reprisal."

The formal statement of the warrant was to authorize the agent to pass beyond the borders of the nation ("marque", meaning frontier), and there to search, seize, or destroy assets or personnel of the hostile foreign party ("reprisal"), not necessarily a nation, to a degree and in a way that was proportional to the original offense. It was considered a retaliatory measure short of a full declaration of war, and by maintaining a rough proportionality, was intended to justify the action to other nations, who might otherwise consider it an act of war or piracy. [*]

Marque and reprisal have fallen out of fashion toward more state-centric and publicly funded navies (though this seems to be moving back toward private maurading contract based military particuarly in the U.S., with criminal companies like Dyncorp (full of mercenaries and "ex-"special operations personnel; caught running child sex rings still unpunished; and Halliburton (the U.S. army's sole monopoly supplier; 52% of all Iraq spending have gone to Hallliburton--most of it illegally without open contracts.

Back to the maritime states, these first seriously began after the Roman Empire once more around the Baltic instead of the Mediterranean (which had become dominated by the global Dar al-Islam (the abode of Islam), which was a major trading religion everwhere it went worldwide--except for the Baltic of course.

There the Norman Vikings began, and soon moved all around France, England, "Norman"dy, and Sicily, and other Mediterranean islands. For more detail read these marvellous books: Scammell's The World Encompassed: The First European Maritime Empires, c. 800-1650; Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker's The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic; and Jean Lafitte's The Journal of Jean Lafitte.

To cut to the chase, "land state" politics were increasingly put over much larger areas, with the same drive to intentionally geo-politically link up the areas clientelistically in some manner, particuarly facilitating the same kind of degradation supporting frameworks. From the start, these European maritime states were militant and private trading arrangements simultaneously. Europe as a group of statelets was the first area on the globe to put land cannons on ocean going state ships and cannons on ocean going private trading ships, contributing to turning international shipping into a form of state run monopoly piracy and warfare tied intimately to trade. This was an outgrowth of near perpetual warfare in the European territory and in the Mediterranean, the coastal Atlantic, and the Baltic Sea between European statelets north and south of it. This inter-European contention was exported internationally with European statelets fighting each other halfway across the world for what were really still European statelet issues as geopolitics. For instance, even though Portugal was halfway around the world in the Spice Islands, the first traders there could only crow about parochical European politics along the lines of "this will crush Venetian monopolies on spices."

The largest example of this private/pirate corporate state model of empire was the British Empire. I am skeptical it ever was wrapped up. As recently as the 1980s, Britain was militarily defending its far flung maritime state territories in the Falkland Islands War, against Argentina. Many would contend that the U.S. and the U.K. from the 1890s began to construct a "co-dependent" British corporate imperialist Empire, since they aided one another in wars in 1898, WWI, WWII, the CIA's 1950s attack on Iraqi democracy, and in Gulf War I and Gulf War II (Afghanistan and Iraq and...).

Regardless of activities of the 20th century, let's go back into the 1600s and look at the British version of the maritime state. The British Empire was an entirely private maritime commericial plantation and trading endeavor, run by its monopoly corporations assigned to poilice, tax, monitor, and profit (and degrade) particular territorial areas of other peoples at the butt of a gun. Many of these British corporations were states in themselves. India was increasingly run by a British corporation, the British East India Company for a while, and most of the world knows other corporations by their shortened logo names: "Virginia" or "Massachusetts" for instance. These 'states' were really corpoarate boardroom driven enterprises. Some of these British Empire monopoly territory corporations still exist: like the Hudson Bay Company which was still the largest private landowner in the Dominion of Canada when Canada was invented in the 1860s. All British corporations took profit back to banks in "the City," where the privately run Bank of England subsequently determined exactly how much the British government could spend on protecting its far flung enterprises. That's the maritime state in short: a corporate plantation-penal colony empire. (Hey, what's changed, if anything??)

Second, as well described in Men and Whales, there was another ramping up of state maritime frameworks in the mid 1800s. First it was the gun-fired harpoon that began to "industrialize" whaling which took on the look of a form of warfare instead of fishing. Then from 1905, huge supply-side interests decided to put together "industrial fishery cities" on steel ships for whales and other fish--capable of storage, processing, and waste jettisoning around the world of much larger catches instead of having to return immediately to port. This "industrial fishing" expansion quickly decimated whales particularly which breed very slowly. Whaling is still an ongoing industry, despite huge opposition and despite basically killing off their own industry. Julia Whitty's main article at Mother Jones magazine mentioned that it is currently estimated that 25% of all fish caught is actually 'bycatch'--unwanted dead fish thrown back into the sea, to rot. 25% of all fish caught annually turned to dead floating rotting meat is huge wasteful destruction, for the past 100 years. Industrial fishing is perhaps one of the more destructive and inefficent activities ever devised. That's why states subsidize it perversely, because it is unable to stand on its own. There's something definitely the matter here....

The below is a useful timeline tying in industrialization of whaling/fishing. It gives a thumbnail picture for the rest of this post's themes about our collective increased desire for some sort of "bioregional protection" of certain areas of the ocean--and the difficulty of policing such areas in international waters unless you are Greenpeace bringing back the pictures worth a thousand words. However, Greenpeace is hardly a police force. We require something like an "oceanic coast guard" for international waters I would argue. Some ideas toward achieving it and keeping it democratic and limited in its scope are below later.

However, long before Greenpeace, in the early 1900s' "industrial fishing" takes over from small scale sustainable fisheries. Within 50 years, a resource of thousands of years is reduced to increasingly nothing while knowledge of small scale fishing had almost vanished in the shakeout worldwide. Whales are the example in this timeline though similar effects could be noted in other industrialized fisheries on the high seas--that continue to this day. Japan is the only other area of the world that has had hundreds of years of a whaling tradition--though for completely different consumptive uses from the same whales, typically with a more culinary use than Europans (using whales for many things: lamp light oil melted down from the blubber/fat--was very clean burning, textile sizing, whalebone corsets (using the baleen as well as a girdle), ambergris uses, etc.)

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Whales, Inc.: A Timeline of European Industrial Whaling vs. Sustainable Whaling (for other Uses)

# 1848: Whaling enters the industrial age with the invention of the exploding harpoon. Incredibly more distant and accurate fired harpoons created a much more assmetric 'whale war.' Before people had to risk their lives to get close to manually launch a harpoon, and even if it hit, the whale might still kill them, or simply plunge down into the sea, dragging the tiny harpoon boat with it.

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(Forget towing whales, then, whales were pulled up the ramp to be flensed onboard, in mid ocean, instead of requiring a port of call; then, carcass dropped back into the sea)

# 1905: The introduction of factory ships leads to massive growth in the whaling industry. These floating processing plants are able to decimate whale populations at the rate of up to 40,000 a year.
# 1930: 80% of the the great whale species are feared to be on the verge of extinction.
# 1946: The International Whaling Commission (IWC) is created by the world's 14 whaling nations to manage whale stocks.
# 1972: The number of blue whales, the largest creatures on the planet, sinks to less than 6,000.
# 1975: Greenpeace launches its anti-whaling campaign, confronting whaling fleets on the high seas. Faced with the grisly realities of commercial whaling, public opinion begins to turn against the whalers.
# 1979: The anti-whaling lobby gains ground at the IWC, which establishes the Indian Ocean Whale Sanctuary as a practical conservation measure.
# 1982: The IWC is successfully lobbied to establish a moratorium on commercial whaling, taking effect from 1986.
# 1983: The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) bans international commercial trade in whale meat and confers protected status on the world's great whales.

Then the reaction against from the mid 1980s to the present:

# 1987: Japan begins its so-called "scientific" whaling programme. (Here's some of that "scientific study meat", sold in Japanese stores.)

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# 1990: Seven out of the nine remaining whaling nations agree to abandon the industry. [IN OTHER WORDS, JUST TWO HOLDOUTS: NORWAY AND JAPAN FROM 1990.]
# 1993: Norway lodges an objection to the moratorium and resumes commercial whaling, killing 500 minke whales per year.
# 1994: Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary created to protect the great whales in their breeding grounds.
# 1994: Survey results show that over 5 million people go whale watching in 65 countries. This eco-tourism is actually more profitable than commercial whaling.
# 1998: Brazil proposes a Southern Atlantic Sanctuary. Australia and New Zealand propose Southern Pacific Sanctuary.
# 1999: Japan's steps up its vote buying strategy at the IWC, and establishes a "blocking minority" to prevent the creation of a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary.
# 2000: Japan and Norway attempt to remove the protected status of whales at the CITES meeting in Nairobi in April 2000. If successful this would pave the way for a return to international trade in whale products.They fail by a narrow margin.
# 1999/2000: Greenpeace vessel MV Arctic Sunrise confronts Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary. 1999 The MV Sirius carries out similar work off the Norwegian coast.
# 2001: Whale watching is now a thriving industry in 87 countries, generating an income of US$1 billion worldwide each year.
# 2001: Japan admits to using overseas aid to [corruptly bribe and] buy support from developing nations for a return to commercial whaling.
# 2001: Greenpeace confronts the Japanese fleet and films a whale being harpooned in the Southern Oceans whale sanctuary.
# 2002: Japan uses votes bought from 14 other nations to block whale sanctuaries and deny indigenous peoples subsistence quotas - at the IWC meeting in Shimonoseki, Japan.
# 2002: Mexico creates the world's largest national whale sanctuary - in all of its EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) in the Pacific, Atlantic and Carribean Sea - to protect 21 species of cetaceans.
# 2002: Iceland is voted in as a full member of the IWC - despite refusing to follow the rules and despite their intention to resume whaling in 2006. [*]

As you can see, particularly with Japanese corruption they are still going at it--bribing people all the way to support it. Bribery, organized crime and environmental degradation go hand in hand. Another fine example of how corruption and environmental degradation support go hand in hand in general--a theme throughout Toward A Bioregional State, which is one of the purposes that call for entirely political institutional solutions to remove and lessen such known conflicts of interest capacties for corruption in the first place.

We shall see Norway's and Japan's "pirate whaling" in another intersting overlap later. They are some of the countries dominating the use of "flags of convenience" registration.

With such corruption and environmental degradation being linked together as a political force, the maritime state further employs subsidies as well to maintain a crony driven ecological destruction. This only expands to subsidize self-destruction in fisheries in general.

This political corruption and crony subsidization sponsorship of large scale supply side organizations leads of course to large shake outs of sustainable practices in fisheries, toward factory ships there as well. These state subsidized ships carried refrigerator technology, and whole processing plants. They were basically huge cities on the sea, creating huge externalities whereever they went. This was both for dead as well as "half dead" 'by-catch' of fish caught and unwanted so they were thrown back leaving huge areas of rotting fish and species depletion even in those species no one was even fishing for in the first place. As mentioned above, it is estimated that as much as 25% of all fish caught each year are 'bycatch' and unwanted. They simply are hauled up, die, and then thrown back overboard to rot. Given the billions of pounds of fish caught, 25% is a huge figure of rotting meat and very wasteful technological pratices. Destroy one species, move on to the next. Destroy that one, move on to the next. Anything to keep the unsustainable practices continuing:

As fishing fleets expanded through the late 1980s and as fish-finding and harvesting technologies became more efficient, the world’s fishers have systematically gone after their catch at greater depths and in more remote waters. Over the past 50 years, the number of large predatory fish in the oceans has dropped by a startling 90 percent. Catches of many popular food fish such as cod, tuna, flounder, and hake have been cut in half despite a tripling in fishing effort. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the 4 million vessels scouring the world’s waters are at or exceeding the sustainable yields of three quarters of all oceanic fisheries. The 10 most-fished species constitute 30 percent of the world’s catch. Seven of these have reached their limits and are classified as fully exploited or overexploited throughout their entire ranges, meaning that we cannot expect to increase their harvests. Included in this group are two types of Peruvian anchoveta, Alaska pollock, Japanese anchovy, blue whiting in the northeast Atlantic, capelin in the North Atlantic, and Atlantic herring. The other three species--chub mackerel, skipjack tuna, and largehead hairtail--are overfished in parts of their ranges.

The almost overnight collapse of the 500-800 year old cod fisheries off Newfoundland is only a harbinger of what is to come everywhere worldwide unless some sort of change is institutionalized in the way fisheries are organized and more "bioregional oceanic" preserves like the one for whales are generated above.

There are optimistic ideas that are working, discussed, in related articles at the Mother Jones magazine links, particularly around protected "oceanic oases" beyond that of whales that allow for species recovery and economic durability. (This is ironically--or rather appropriately--exactly what has been determined as the best mechanism to save large land based animals without access to large ecological blocks they typically require. Instead just have a string of ecological areas, likned by corridors, and the "species to area" relationship is conserved, say those specializing in island biogeography (as discussed in the book by David Quammen, The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions).

Who's Going to Police a Corrupt Corporate Anarchy on the High Seas?

However, for the oceanic version, it depends on a capable and funded policing coast guard force--though many of these areas of protection that are starting to exist (or that should exist) are currently in "international" waters. Thus whether for the whales or the fish harvests it is a "race to the (genetic) bottom" playing out all over the world at present--due to jurisdictional difficulty of finding some organization or agency to police it. States themselves, as the whale example above have shown, are hardly up to the task. Greenpeace voyeuristically snapping photographs is hardly "policing" though it does call attention to the issues at hand. We are at that ecological borderline where action is required now:

2000 marked a decisive turning point when the global wild fish catch, which grew 500 percent between 1950 and 1997, peaked at 96 million tons despite better technologies and intensified efforts by fishers. Thereafter it has fallen by more than 3 percent per capita a year, declining to 31 pounds per capita in 2003, a rate last seen 40 years ago. Even more alarming, a 2001 reassessment published in Nature suggests the annual catch has actually been falling far longer, about 400,000 tons a year since 1988, a fact concealed by China’s misreporting of its annual catch. ["The fate of the Ocean"]

Due to crony maritime state politics and policies forcing large scale fisheries into existence through state subsidy frameworks, the whole fishing regime has become self-destructive. The criminal corporate maritime state subsidy network is taking the oceans down with it. The oceans, durable and sustainable for many thousands of years beforehand, within 100 years of intensive maritime state industrial pressure have experienced the oceanic version of warfare and strip mining instead of fishing. Particularly with drift nets, and ever larger nets that capture everything in its path in the 'by-catch', this has left huge destructive swaths across open seas. Trawlers of course even intentionally scrape the ocean floors which may take decades to recover, if ever.

It is politics that holds the destruction in place, more than economics. [See another Mother Jones article for more information: "Saving the Ocean: It's a Question of Leadership. Two "ocean champions" say the problems of the ocean are fundamentally political--and so are the solutions.] If it was economic, they would stop it immediately. However, subsidization frameworks of these operations are without par! Industrial fishing may be most subsidized "industry" on the planet. The destruction of the oceans would be seriously cut back with the subsidies removed.

The irony is that governments subsidize the destruction of oceanic resources to the tune of $15-30 billion each year. In 2001, subsidies paid to the fishing industry in Japan reached $2.5 billion, equal in value to a quarter of the catch. U.S. fishing subsidies totaled $1.2 billion, exceeding the worth of 30 percent of the U.S. catch. Removing these subsidies could go a long way toward relieving pressure on fish stocks.


Paradoxically, fishing has become so efficient as to be supremely inefficient. One of the biggest culprits is long-lining, in which a single boat sets monofilament line across 60 or more miles of ocean, each bearing vertical gangion lines that dangle at different depths, baited with up to 10,000 hooks designed to catch a variety of pelagic (open ocean) species. Each year, an estimated 2 billion longline hooks are set worldwide primarily for [heavily mercury laden] tuna and [mercury laden] swordfish ["Prepared plate of fish: Navigating the Catch of the Day." Overfishing...mercury...but they taste so good! How to eat fish without fear"] --though long-liners inadvertently kill far more other species that take the bait, including some 40,000 sea turtles, 300,000 seabirds, and millions of sharks annually. Thrown dead or dying back into the ocean, these unwanted species (bycatch) make up at least 25 percent of the global catch, perhaps as much as 88 billion pounds of life a year. All told, pelagic longlines are the most widely used fishing gear on earth, and are deployed in all the oceans except the circumpolar seas. But whereas they once caught 10 fish per 100 hooks set, today they are lucky to catch one, evidence the seas are running dry.


Abetting their destructiveness are the trawl fisheries, which drag nets across every square inch of the bottom of the continental shelves every two years, trawling some regions many times a season. By razing vital benthic (seafloor) ecosystems, trawlers--the brutal equivalent of fishing the seafloor with bulldozers--level an area 150 times larger than the total area of forests clearcut on land each year.

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Adding to longlines and trawlers is the technology of drift nets, the nearly invisible curtains of monofilament blindsiding the life of the ocean. In the North Atlantic, shark and monkfish nets up to 150 miles long are set 1,600 feet below the surface, then left untended to sail and randomly ensnare life. In the course of operations in stormy seas, many nets are lost or abandoned—though they continue to fill with prey, which attracts predators, which likewise become trapped, die, and decay, attracting more predators. Composed of nonbiodegradable synthetics, deepwater ghostnets fish with nightmarish efficiency [without purpose as drifting 'death nets'] for years. Fishing provides a vivid illustration of the differences in our attitudes toward the land and the sea. Nowadays we refrain from indiscriminately mowing down wildlife for food; imagine slaughtering lions by the hundreds or bears by the hundredweight, along with all the antelope, deer, wolves, raccoons, and wildebeest around them, in government-funded operations, no less. Yet that’s what we do at sea, with the world’s nations subsidizing 25 to 40 percent of total global fishing revenues.

That is the perverse order of the politics of the maritime state in the world at present. Several good books to read on this industrialization of fishing and subsidies would be Men and Whales, as well as The Subsidy Scandal. The bibliography of Toward A Bioregional State has many high quality treatments of how politicized subsidy frameworks are aimed only at very consolidated corporations, which are huge contributors to environmental degradation in the oceans while these corporations themselves on land are huge political contributors to the ones who assure their subsidies on the ocean, etc., etc. This is why complete public funding of elections would help stop environmental degradation as well--by severing this Mobius loop of rotating environmental degradation, corporate subsidization, and private electioneering/bribery folding back on themselves.

However, we require more than books to simply describe it: we require a series of ideas for action and political strategy of what to do about it. This is why Toward A Bioregional State was started--to get the debate going on how to bring about systemic change toward sustainbilty when most of the state governmetal apparatus is facilitive or protective of environmental degradation instead of faciliating sustainabilty--and how to organize something to the contrary as the politics for it is definitely already here though only "waiting to be organized" as the book summary states. Check the other links to polls for such support.

What's a bioregion to an ocean?

Though with the ocean, how to frame the bioregional specificity? Well, for one, we have already seen how innately particular locations in the oceans are being mapped out as "hot spots" for ecological protection, whether for whales or for other fish species. Second, there are various "important weather regulator hotspots"--this guy says 12--around the world that have a global effect on weather patterns.

"If we can afford to gaze up at the sky looking for asteroids, we should be able to watch our own planet with as much care," says Professor John Schellnhuber. Professor Schellnhuber said 12 "hotspots" had been identified so far, areas which acted like massive regulators of the Earth's environment. If these critical regions were subjected to stress, they could trigger large-scale, rapid changes across the entire planet. But not enough was known about them to be able to predict when the limits of tolerance were reached. "We have so far completely underestimated the importance of these locations," he said. [BBC]

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Oil Slick/Oil Spill Prevalence around Indonesia, Phillipines, and Java

Third, a map of the frequency of oil slicks at sea would show where other bioregionally sensitive areas require more political input than others to solve.

This would be justification enough if you were looking only for an intellectual argument for a global totalitarian state, which is hardly the point of a bioregional arrangement. Instead, one of the principles of the bioregional state applied to the oceans would be a mechanism that would demote the industrialized strip mining of the ocean's fish, toward a registering of the actual costs and externalities, and thus innately remove what are in essense land based political corruptions keeping such maritime frameworks in place. This would allow a move toward smaller scale fishing that existed around the world less than 100 years ago, and toward local coastal self-management of a natural commons interface--particularly in a particular commodity as is currently done in Maine with lobsters which is quite a success story. It is additionally a fascinating case of the interaction of human and ecological frameworks for coastal areas. I would like to see all coastal areas of the world have such local self-maintainence natural commons commodity conservation institutions comprised of the very people who work with the commodity, over the corrupt states that would enforce environmental degrdation. How Maine got one of these arrangements of jurisdictional local predomiance over the state government for the commodity of lobster is an interesting story told in books like The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean, by Trevor Corson.

Removing maritime state subsidies toward oceanic self-destruction are required, because large industrial frameworks of fishing are hardly durable economically, and are only in existence due to the economic corruption of political subsidization.

That is the tragedy here--that it's hardly economics destroying us, its a crony political framework of clientelistic perks in the ongonig maritime state toward certain larger suppliers that seem quite willing to subsidize themselves and the oceans into oblivion. There's many perverse dynamics on such relations like this in the book The Subsidy Scandal, with one chapter on Canadian fisheries that still shocks me: they knew they were destroying themselves ecologically in the cod fishery, though their politics locked them into doing it anyway, even when all actors could see what was happening. The Subsidy Scandal is of a much longer vintage and a much longer moral of the story of maritime state framework itself--where subsidies for geopolitcial empire and clietelistic politics were more instrumental than economics in explaining maritime empires.

Interestingly as mentioned in David Helvarg's book Blue Frontier: Saving America's Living Seas_, the U.N. almost got jurisdictional control of the entire world's oceans in the early 1970s. The funny side of how it failed had to do with countries reacting sensibly to what they thought was a U.S. ocean floor "magnesium nodule mining" operation--when it was really just a cover legend for lots of heavy equpiment on a CIA vessel, outfitted on the West Coast of the United States for some spy vs. spy work out in mid-ocean. In reaction, the countries around the world rushed to protect all their magnesium nodules on "their" ocean floors. This hyped concern over the U.S. creating a "magnesium nodule gap" against all the other countries in the world and mining off their shores--which was a cover story for the CIA--led countries all over the world toward further extending their maritime jurisdictions over the seas upwards to 200 miles on average. Thus with this heightened oceanic autarky in the 1970s, a U.N. policy that was once near passage with wide global agreements--that oceans should in principle have an international jurisdiction under the U.N. as an ecological solution--was shattered.

However, with the U.N. NOT BEING AN ELECTED, democratic or representive body, nothing about the U.N. can really have anything to do with sustainabilty in the first place. Most of its own policies, representing its lack of representation, have been just as corrupt and bizarre and militaristic in the past 25 years as any other imperialist maritime state with a military--particularly in aiding in pre-emptive warfare in Yugoslavia, which was another another pro-U.S. corporate pre-emptive imperialist policy for oil pipelines into the Middle East that we see echoed into the present with the pre-emptive attack on Iraq. The U.N. "authorized" (sic) the first attack on Iraq under Poppy Bush, showing how corrupt the institution had become by 1991, and when it failed to "authorize" another invasion under Baby Bush, the U.S. invaded Iraq anyway. With Iraq of course being a member of the U.N., and the U.S. on the oxymoric "security council," the U.S. has twice over attacked another member of the U.N. pre-emptively--whic is a U.N. and Nuremberg Laws defined war crime. Nothing was said. It was like the deaf ears of the League of Nations in the 1930s when addressed by its member Ethiopia, while the (mostly European) League ignored Italian imperialism against another (non European) League member and even aided it. The danger is that the U.N. will incrasingly be used as another form of "collective imperialism" by European nations against the majority of the world.

In other words, as with so much of the global NWO framework as a corporate imperialist and fascist control network of institutions, I don't consider the U.N. as presently organized as a legitimate organization to addresss sustainability. It's a completely unelected framework, a very corrupt framework, and it contines late 19th century British-Ameri-German eugenic plans more than any other institution particuarly with the corruption in the World Health Organization that was found to actually with the CIA's help to be killing off Africans under the cover of "innoculations" instead of providing vaccine.

The U.N. is a useful debating body, though it requires much more formal institutional changes to make it more legitiamte in my eyes--particuarly some type of override on the bizarre single veto frameworks of the "Security Council." The Security Council should be removed from the U.N. anyway if its going to be a U.N. instead of a collective military imperialist framework. The Security Council acts like an upper house full of the most militaristic groups, who are hardly going to be a useful forum for stopping such warmongers like themselves instead of simply serving as a mechanism for their collective warmongering over everyone else as we have seen for 15 years! In particular, as the U.S. increasingly is attempting to call into being a U.N. as an INVASION authorizing body, the whole purpose of the U.N. has been turned "to the dark side." There is nothing like "authorization for war" in its charter at all, if this even has to be said.

However, with this U.N. caveat noted, as Juila Whitty writes in the Mother Jones article, the ocean really is a singular issue--unable to be addressed in such a piecemeal fashion.

In fact, there is only one ocean on Earth: a world ocean encompassing 70.78 percent of our planet. The ancient Greeks sensed the ocean was one and portrayed their water god Okeanos (Oceanus) as a river circling the world. Three thousand years later, modern oceanographers confirm the world ocean is connected in riverlike fashion; using a schematic known as the ocean conveyor belt, they portray Okeanos as a Möbiuslike ribbon winding through all the ocean basins, rising and falling, and stirring the waters of the world. In this manner, the surface waters we sail in the North Atlantic are destined to flow to the Arctic, to grow colder and sink, and, once at the bottom, to reverse flow southward through the Atlantic, eventually converging with the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, before surfacing in the Northeast Pacific 1,200 years from now. Centuries later, they will arrive back in the North Atlantic, having truly traveled the seven seas. Or maybe they won’t. Things are changing." --- "The Fate of the Ocean", in Mother Jones, by Julia Whitty

An oceanic coast guard: only for policing environmental issues, fisheries technology usage, and pelagic preserves on the high seas

I would recommend some sort of global body, of democratically elected groups (hopefully trashing the U.N. of course in the process, though it could be kept as a separate debating and peacemaking body of course) that would all give up their sea coastal policing and environmental protection jurisdictions only toward a global body without losing their mineral jurisdctions or other resource jurisdictions in the sea. I think that is a compromise that would work. Plus, there should be a mechanism for grandfatherting in subsidiariry pre-existing treaties between more localized states for environmental policing and environmental protection of "ecological hot spots" near their shores, though with veto or renegotiation power given to only the global body--over these slight issues of policing and environmental protection only.

This group would only be authorized in jurisdictional limitations, to have a oceanic coast guard--without any land based military troops. The latter mistake of course is one of the NWO horrors of the U.N.'s "collective Security Council imperialism" or the "pro-imperialism by Security Council veto" of both Israel and the United States working together. If the U.N. was a serious body, there would be nothing like a Security Council much less a "security council veto"--which is basically placing a handful of the most warmongering countries in a position as overlord over the U.N. deliberations. Does someone with a veto ever have to listen to others? Of course not. The people with the veto if anyone should be the G-88 group of U.N. countries.

This is similar to how NATO has been turned into a "collective imperialism" framework--and even a NATO "secret army" as a terrorism framework--for Euro-American countries within Europe (NATO's Secret Army: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe, by Daniele Ganser) as well as agaisnt the Third World when it was by charter only a defense alliance without any authoriztaion for taking on pre-emptive attacks in Yugoslavia or now in Afghanistan. Thus with NATO and the U.N. taking on military trappings and corporate empire goals, one should keep in mind that we have on our hands two major international institutions both completely unelected and both with imperialistic armies. Both of them fail to deserve any such military power.

This global oceanic coast guard would enforce oceanic laws only within these areas:

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1. There should be one global shipping registry; this means the removal of all near criminal "flags of convenience" which encourage organized crime, drug running, and shell corporation protections from any crimes they commit in another countries waters. Plus, flags of convenience are a form of environmental risk as well, as made clear by the Jule 2003 article in The Ecologist on how with their lack of policing or investigatory power, shippers have basically let their ship tonnage stay in service until it rots without required maintenace. Particularly on liquid or energy carriers, this is a recipie for oil slicks and long term ocean damage there. This Ecologist article is really an excellent two page introduction to the issue of the interaction between environmental degradation, crime, and "Flags of Convenience." I scanned it here: link (500kb file, opens in separate window) I would reference their online archives, though it was unlisted probably because most of the information is graphical, I suppose. It's the kind of quick article that helps one understand a huge INSTITUTIONAL factor of environmental degradion that shippers (as well as all the countries involved) would rather keep secret. The Ecologist, as it always does, covers this topic like no one else really can or does, though it is a vitally important issue for sustainability to address. Perversely, the whole "flags of convenience" framework has gotten so corrupt that even complete landlocked states like Bolivia claim to have the power to "register and police international ships"! Sure....I'm sure the international shippers using Bolivian registrations quake at the thought of Bolivia coming after them. In short, as a solution, all international shipping should be registered with only one body, this oceanic coast guard. This removal of all flags of convenence and their "race to the bottom" of ever lowering standards of registration and policing of registration would be highly beneficial to cleaning up the oceans from the point of view of the shipping trades. They currently are only creating a context which with flags of convenience expanding systemic risk of the shipping fleet tonnage in the oceans and encourage organized crime at the same moment. The registers know that they are unable to police their licenses. It's a huge joke, and the victim is the environment at large and through that it punishes the health of us all. These novel "skull and bones" pirate flags have been flown quite a while in other words--deceptively being the flags of a handful of tiny statelets across the world used as flags of convenience for hiding the really big fish shippers of countries that use them, when they want some form of removal of legal liability for what would hardly be tolerated as shipping practices in their home countries. A side issue would allow for subidiary nation state policing to aid the oceanic coast guard in that nation's waters. Only with this allowance for a working agreement for a 'gray area' of jurisdictional overlap will it work. I would recommend that anyone found corrupt in these frameworks should be banned from all future shipping related jobs. As an aside, who are the "true modern day pirates" hiding under the top five flags of convenience (Panama, Liberia, Bahamas, Malta, Cyprus), contributing to global organized crime as well as environmental risk? They are majoritatively shippers from the U.S., Japan, Norway, China, Hong Kong, and Greece that are escaping regulation through this device:

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The International Transport Workers Federation says they are on a "50 year campaign" to do something similar in this singular international registration filing standards that would remove all flags of convenience loopholes. Greenpeace says they are working on something similar, though heavens, besides taking pictures and acting dramatic (which indeed is useful, I am a firm believer in that), what else can they do to really accomplish sustainability except get in the media's eye, which with a blink, its quickly closed once more? I'd love to see Greenpeace move toward far more substantive and strategic boycotts, working with an overall synergistic goal in mind--perhaps along the lines of KarabanQue ideas of finding the proper corporations to boycott where it would hurt the most financially for them instead of ones that have larger profit margins (like Greenpeace's dismal falure of a boycott of Esso). Media eye images are very important, though they are hardly a substitite for constructive policy substitutes.

2. complete removal of frameworks of subsidies of the age-old (and outdated) maritime state that have only caused the self-destruction of the oceans through increasingly supply-side biased large scale high technological fishing. The maritime state subsidies are funding the ocean into a dead abyss:

"Overall, 1 billion people around the world rely on fish as their primary
source of protein. While annual fish consumption per person in the industrial countries (at 29 kilograms) is more than twice that of developing countries, three quarters of the fish caught in the wild (by weight) come from developing countries, which also supply 9 out of 10 farmed fish. Thus fish are one of the most widely traded commodities. Seventy-five percent of the total marine harvest is sold on international markets each year, accounting for some $58 billion in exports in 2002. Japan, the United States, and the European Union are the top importers, bringing in fish caught in foreign seas or farmed in other regions and also sending industrial fishing fleets to empty the waters near developing countries. Off the west coast of Africa, for instance, large European and Japanese ships have displaced smaller boats, leaving little of the catch to feed local people. The irony is that governments subsidize the destruction of oceanic resources to the tune of $15-30 billion each year. In 2001, subsidies paid to the fishing industry in Japan reached $2.5 billion, equal in value to a quarter of the catch. U.S. fishing subsidies totaled $1.2 billion, exceeding the worth of 30 percent of the U.S. catch. Removing these subsidies could go a long way toward relieving pressure on fish stocks."

This is a serious issue off Indias Malabar coast (western coast) where sustainable small fishermen experinced a shake out as well--as international ships come in and take all their fish and leave them without a job and in poverty.

Protecting the bioregional heritage of particular coastal areas that know how to fishing sustainably would be the result of maintaining such fishing strategies instead of demoting them toward ever greater self-destruction. There is a nice example of how a "bioregional oceanic" self-monitoring system has developed around the Maine lobsters as a natural commons. It's quite astounding how well thought out it looks on the surface--though it came out of a large amount of political conflict. However, since it did come out from political conflict instead of attempting to paper over it, it's seems to be a far more perfect regulartory framework that anyone could have dreamed up at the start which had been previously imposed from the state above, which failed to work.

3. perhaps running something like a Grameen bank for funding the sustainable boat building designs for smaller sustaiable social relations of fishing for Third World areas (and First World areas). along the lines of Michael Bradley's design styles mentioned offhanded in his book Dawn Voyage.

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4. policing international marine reserves and the high seas against illegal technoligcial fisheries use on the waves; serious reduction of seine, drift microfilament netting and industrial fishing; longlines, trawlers, and drift nets as described above should be banned as technologies of fishing because they are closer to technologies of clear cutting or and strip mining; if that fails to politically fly work on it slowly first with perhaps only licencing all such technologies, with later capacities of revoking or arresting those on the high seas for illegal fishing behavior, and then, slowly shrinking all the liscencing of these down to zero, combined with aid to reequip those thrown out with different technologcial bases of fishery. Punishment is hardly the issue. The issue is successfully making the transistion from unsustainable fishing practices to more sustainable (and efficient) technologies employed in them as well as help recover the fishery base that provides even more jobs.

While fish stocks historically have been managed on a species-by-species
basis, scientists now recognize the need for management of whole ecosystems. This includes setting aside marine reserves where fishing is prohibited altogether. There is no guarantee that a collapsed fishery can recover, but studies of protected areas around the world have shown that some exploited fish populations rebound faster and that individual fish grow larger in and around marine reserves than in unprotected areas. A global network of marine reserves protecting up to 30 percent of the world’s oceans would cost around $13 billion--far less than the subsidies that currently promote overfishing. Such a network would also create some 1 million new jobs and bolster the number of fish that can be caught in nearby waters....

Creating sustainable fisheries also depends on strict fishing quotas [perhaps arranged in a way similar to Maine and the lobsters] and
better enforcement to quash illegal fishing. Restricting the most damaging and indiscriminate types of fishing gear and adopting new bycatch-reducing technologies can stop the killing of incidental catch. For example, by modifying the shape of their hooks and switching to a different type of bait, fishers in the Western North Atlantic were able to reduce turtle bycatch by 92 percent and increase the catch of their target species. On the other side of the globe, Australian prawn trawlers have used devices to cut by-catch by more than 60 percent without adversely affecting their catch. Such measures that boost the resiliency of aquatic populations and ecosystems should work in tandem with broader policies to protect our waters from looming threats like climate change and pollution.

5. Countries could fund the oceanic coast guard through a small percentage of their catch for a start. then it could be self-funding: as the catch gets better with the sustainable security, the budget bean counters are rewarded as well; fish hauls landed in such a way that the oceanic coast guard will get its .5% percentage cut of the catch profits for maintaining its fleet, crews, and perhaps its "Grameen style" shipping bank for aiding technological conversion (though the latter could be done by others, feasibly).

6. Only to reiterate, the weight and measurement frameworks of all internationally registered shipping will be set by uniform standards, instead of multiple different (and unpoliced standards) under flags of convenience that has led to a "race to the bottom" on safety standards, environmental standards, and fishing standards. These standards make #5 possible to generate as well.

7. Perhaps, for the consumer, the oceanic coast guard could have a branch that was based on letting shippers or fishers advertize their successful sustainable practices, giving it consumer support (and getting the producers interested in aiding the consumer with more information) as well as mass political support by providing the consumer with more information about sustainable fishing practices of their operations over other unsustainable operations; this could be a particular series of consumer logos for different issues like "sustainably caught, verified", the type of netting used ("caught without a longline/drift net" logo; "non trawler" caught logo; or "bycatch reduction bait used", etc. This is alrady being done in part by some certification organizations.

Just seven ideas for how to apply bioregional motifs on the sea. Remembering that most of the planet is ocean, and as the unsustainability crisis is already on our collective doorstep, something like this should be done as soon as possible.

I close with something inventive. it is so inspiring and "drop dead simple" you wonder why no one else had thought of it before:

Asia and Africa have even had success growing fish within rice paddies, where the fish need limited or no added feed and their wastes fertilize the grain crop. Modeling future aquacultural endeavors on such lower-impact systems would be an important step toward a more sustainable fish harvest. Informing consumers about the environmental effects of the fish they eat--whether from the sea or a farm—allows them to vote with their wallets for sustainable food choices. The Marine Stewardship Council, an independent global certification agency, has thus far certified 12 fisheries as sustainably managed, and 263 MSC-certified products are now available in 24 countries. In addition, a number of other organizations, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the National Audubon Society in the United States, provide information ***for the public and restaurateurs*** on the status of a
variety of food fish.

From mere Living Machines "End of Pipe" Solutions, to Ecological Engineering

The challenge of sustainability is to integrate ourselves into ecology politically, with the mental focus that people used to devote to thinking up novel cogwheels or flywheel designs for clocks or heavy machinery devoted toward how to integrate our politics and consumption into ecologically durable relationships. However, a vocabulary is lacking for the most part. There are several different strategies that have been aired to show where I argue this is leading which I would call ecological engineering.

The mental prowess now required now is for raising a generation of "ecological engineers." This desire--actually this requirement--for sustinabilty means that such "ecological engineering" of human and environment to take each other into account and ponder the long term iterative health, ecological, and econmic durability issues with each policy, technology, or formal institutional design move, will give rise to a whole different kind of applied science as ecological engineering. This style of thought has only scratched the surface with those biologists and ecologists toying around with "living machines." This is a very novel use of a nascent "applied ecology", though it has only started from the 1990s.

The concept of living machines represents a particularly interesting variant on intelligent machines, and has mostly been associated with water treatment systems that make use of [humanly assembled off known ecological relationships into "machine ecologies" that have a human designed product outcome, particularly in..] their natural bioremediation processes such as wetlands to remove contaminants from sewage and other waste water sources. The earliest living machines were developed and designed by John Todd and Nancy Jack Todd of Ocean Arks International, beginning in the 1990s. [*]

A particularly claustrophobic party-piece "living machine" would be those blown glass globes with fish that live their lives trapped inside them. The living fish are balanced in a closed sphere: where percentages of water, air, carbon dioxide scrubbers of algae, and carbon soruces of fish are a "human manufactured ecology" that existed first in the human mind before being artificially constructed as a machine in the glass globe. I dislike any species being forced into a mere adjuct of another's mental game, though this is a good description. Read the whole page if you are curious:

A Living Machine (capital letters, it's a patented invention) is a series of tanks teeming with live plants, trees, grasses and algae, koi and goldfish, tiny freshwater shrimp, snails, and a diversity of microorganisms and bacteria. Each tank is a different mini-ecosystem designed to eat or break down waste [from the previous process tank, arranged in a series from closed anerobic reactions first to increasingly more open to the air tanks]. The process takes about four days to turn mucky water crystal clear. It is chemical-free, odor-free (with the exception perhaps of the sweet fragrance of flowers), and, compared to conventional waste treatment, it costs less financially and ecologically. [*]

And more on John Todd from Wikipedia is useful to summarize here to understand the background of this "first step" toward ecological engineering moving from "end-of-pipe ecologies" to wholesale ecological interaction intent that many oceanographers want to turn all fisheries management into immediately.

Dr. John Todd (1939- ) is an important biologist working in the field of ecological design. His ideas often involve applications that make use of alternative technologies. His principle interests include solving the problems of food production and waste-water processing. As an author, he has presented the outcome of the work that he and colleagues have undertaken in a series of books, as well as in the requisite scientific papers. Todd was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1939. He earned his B.Sc. (1961) in agriculture and his M.Sc. (1963) in parasitology and tropical medicine at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, after which he did doctoral work in fisheries and oceanography at the University of Michigan. His early professional interest, involving the behavioral ecology of fish, was the basis of his work as an assistant professor of ethology at San Diego State University (1968-1970), after which he joined the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, as an assistant scientist. Todd's wife, Nancy Jack Todd, trained as a dancer and is a skilled writer and editor. She has edited and added introductions to many of John Todd's books, and co-written the most recent. Back in the Woods Hole days, John had begun to develop his ideas about how complicated biological food chains worked, and in their conversations Nancy wondered if ecological concepts could serve people's needs. She suggested science needed "a human face." In 1969 the Todds co-founded the New Alchemy Institute to do both fundamental research into aspects of biology and deciplines as well as to apply biological science to technology. Todd and colleagues have designed miniature ecosystems, largely self-perpetuating, which bring ecological principles into service of human requirements. Besides designing and prototyping food-producing systems and approaches for communities of people, this work has resulted in innovative new approaches to processing sewage and industrial waste water. Todd's approach has involved applications of micro-organisms, fish, and plants (phytoremediation).

Todd and colleagues have developed what they call "living machines." In principle, a living machine is an ecologically engineered technology developed to restore, conserve, or remediate sewage or other polluted water, by replicating and accelerating the natural purification processes of streams, ponds and marshes. In practical application, a living machine is a self-contained treatment system designed to treat a specific waste stream using the principles of ecological engineering. It does this by using diverse communities of bacteria and other microorganisms, algae, plants, trees, snails, fish and other living creatures.

John Todd developed a greenhouse waste treatment plant in Cape Cod that yields clean water from sewage. Bacteria consume the organic sewage and turn ammonia into nitrates. The nitrates are used as food for algae and fertilizer for duckweed. Zooplankton and snails consume the algae. Fish eat the zooplankton. Floating plants soak up the leftovers. Bulrushes, cattails, and hyacinths render the toxins harmless. Trees absorb heavy metals. The byproducts are decorative plants and minnows, both of which are sold. The minnows are sold as bait fish. Aquatic plants, raised in the system's open-air lagoons for sewer treament, are used in California, Florida, and Mississippi. Todd's "living machine" system makes it possible to do all this in the colder northern climates. The town of Harwich, Massachusetts began using Todd's system in 1990. Todd served as the New Alchemy Institute's President until 1981. In 1980, he co-founded Ocean Arks International. He also co-founded Living Technologies Inc., an ecological design, engineering, and construction firm in Burlington, Vermont. From 1999 he has been Research Professor & Distinguished Lecturer at the University of Vermont. While Todd has pursued much of his work with the developing world in mind, applications for the benefit of industrialized and affluent societies have been part and parcel. [*]

Ecological engineering is one step onward and even the inverse. Instead of "bring ecological principles into service of human requirements" (living machines), ecological engineering would entail bringing human requirements into the seamless service of ecological principles, for both ecological and human benefits. This means commodity design and choice with ecological interactions in mind, instead of simply end of pipe remediation concerns of still poisonous commodities. It is similar to both living machines end-of-pipe frameworks though is closer to how to expand Gaviotas-style frameworks on a much larger or more durable basis. It additionally means attempting to link up all of the different humanly produced commodity uses across different areas that would innately have different relational solutions, into similar though site specific and ecologically sound framework of interactions and hand offs. This would be done in the real world similar to how living machines perform this hand off in an "artificial ecological" world.

The real challenge of ecological engineering is one step beyond "living machine" design which has a very suspicious pro-corporate "end of the pipe" regulatory attitude about it: let us keep polluting and perhaps polluting even more. A green-on-the-outside coating of an unsustainable framework is still an unsustainable framework though. Living machines are a party-piece at worst, or an ecological-only framework at best for exclusively "end of pipe solutions"--a phrase I would consider an tautologous oxymoron if ever there was one.

I personally have seen a living machine "working" in a Wisconsin dairy. It was quite beautiful. It involved a rather large greenhouse of multiple water tanks, and snails. There were chemical remediation choices based on types of synergistic grasses, fish, and other species which become the novel cogwheels, flywheels, and steam engines of a remediation plant. The builder/operator of the living machine told us that the only time it ever broke down when he fed into it GMO-fed dairy cow milk wastes in a typically organic milk operation. That is interesting, eh?

Though I'm glad that there are some minds already working on such issues, it is required to go much further.

Toward A Bioregional State is really a form of nascent ecological engineering I suppose: the first attempt to stop tagging ecology on "end of pipe" issues like the one above. The point of the bioregional state is to evaluate the larger long term iterative historical dynamics of our previously existing whole political economic and state design frameworks as interactive all the while, and to daily integrate the ecologcial feedback that has been ignored into our political dynamics as one of many required ecological checks and balances.

For our durability as much as ecological soundness, it is required to fit ourselves institutionally into ecological specificities and respect ecological interactions and build upon them. Instead of build against these reactions or always having the larger human world on the outside designing the 'living machine,' make our development ethic as geographically specific and geographically durable of ecological specifics as possible, instead of considering the environment simply a backdrop. Instead, we are in the picture itself.

My horse clip-clopping
over a field...oh ho! I'm
part of the picture!
-- Basho

In conclusion, if living machines maintain the same false separation between the ecological and the social while making the first step toward using living machines to integrate one aspect of the social (in externaities remediation), then "ecological modernization" is a half step more: an interest in turning externalities back onto themselves into novel items for sale, by removing the whole concept of an "end of pipe" anywhere in the equation, it always being piped back into some other form.

Taking a full step beyond ecological modernization would be ecological engineering--when tools for those interested in sustainablity cease to be categorized as environmental or social because the point is superfluous--where there are 54 basic tools to use instead: the 54 different types of commodities and how to select wisely between them to integrate them into ecological engineering dynamics in particular watersheds, in the first place. Instead of simply juggling externalities and outputs like ecological modernization mostly does, or instead of simply green-on-the-outside remediation of "end of pipe" frameworks like living machines, ecological engineering would juggle inputs as well, choosing particular inputs wisely in the start to maintain geographic local health, ecological, and economic durability to minimize the whole concept of dangerous externalities that require remediation in the first place. Successful ecological engineering would put living machines out of a job in other words because there would nothing bad left to remediate. The commodity ecology in which we already live would have avoided the issue in the first place in its choices.

This would mean removing many high political raw material regimes that have enshrined themselves as inputs, and that is why commodities are always political.

Ecological modernization mostly veers away from thinking of how many of the commodities that are institutionalized are a variable in their design concepts. This is a flaw. Another flaw is that their frameworks are almost entirely materialistic--ignoring the effect that politics and subsides have on keeping a bad commodity choice in place, and instead they simply attempting to treat environmental degradation as a material phenomenon, when it is a politial phenomenon, and a political phenomenon of commodity choice and enshrinement. This over emphasis on material dynamics only, I believe, is a social design flaw on the otherwise astounding Gaviotas--because Gaviotas-style dynamics work. Only when they come against the larger state around them and the institutionalized environmental degrdation from the political organizationn of society, they struggle

Ecological modernization struggles around with externalities instead of addressing the main issue of inputs in the first place, simiar to Gaviotas-style attempts: simply switch to another commodity choice, and work from something sounder in the first place that can maximize other commodity productions sustainability, then attempt to interlink them. In other words, for all its worth, ecological modernization still has an antiquated "end of pipe" view of the socio-ecological-economic world. Instead, this requires reaching into questions of how politics influences certain material durabilities and demotes sustainability if ideas for sustainability are simply couched as offering "best material practices only." As Gaviotas shows, simply offering "best material sustainable practices" materially sidesteps the political issues at root in unsustainability. There are political issues to unsustainable in particular material supports that all the "best practices" in the world will fail to remove by themselves--with recorse to changed formal political institutions to stop unsustainable practices from starting in the first place. Different political frameworks would help change them toward sustainabilty. It is important to look at "material" choices as very ideologically and politically driven instead of something irrevocably given, economic, or neutral.

Thus, from ecological modernization toward ecological engineering, finding different material choices in the first place that demote externalities is fair game as well. Instead, these 54 tools of an ecological engineer are the commodity input choices themselves (and their technolgical interacitons and their externalities) and how to integrate them sustainability into each other in a "living social-ecological machine" of 54 differnt commodty paths, each with geographic specificity, and each attempting to maximize the interconnections of the other 53 social groups working in these commodity choices to see that their own interest is served by working together with the others to integrate themeslves, while listening to consumers on how to do it as well.

However, instead of an ecological engineer who forces a plan down upon an area, he or she would only provide venues and principles for those innately involved in the 54 commodity production areas so that they themselves could find their own geographically specific mechanisms to do it for themselves, as well as to have consumer input into the whole frameworks that equally affect everyone.

They are alrady about to move to this ecological engineering "ecosystem paradigm" of fisheries management, i.e., managing all different fish commodities simultaneously for their interactions instead of separately.

Hixon tells me that we need a Kuhnian paradigm shift in fisheries management. Current managers learned single-species management, and they’re resistant to changing that, even though it seldom works.” [Just as 54 different 'end of pipe' remdiation strategies seldom works all on their own.] A scientific consensus signed by him and 218 other scientists and policy experts pleads for an updated approach: “From a scientific perspective, we now know enough to improve dramatically the conservation and management of marine systems through the implementation of ecosystem-based approaches.” ["The Fate of the Oceans"]

The suggestion of the bioregional state is that we require an equal ecosystem paradigm of commodities production on land--for the relations of rural land, urban infrastructure, and their interactions as well. If I had my way, all urban planners would be trained in ecology and commercial geography as a background. All environmental management personnel would get a training in environmental sociology of commodities, etc. It's the divisions of knowledge that is killing us, and the divisions across attempting to manage artificially "separate" commodities. The lack of overview systematic appraisals of how much we know already is killing us.

More on that in the next post for how this would apply to land. Humorously, pre-requisites are to read one book from all 52 categories of the commodity biography bibliography. (I'm going to add two more I've left out.) :-) Then, attempt to think how they could be physically, socially, and politically interelated in your own watershed. Which ones would you choose for a particular watershed? What are the criteria? How would you create a watershed-specific ecology of multiple commodity production? What kind of institutions does that entail to make it self-monitoring and durable, as well as to keep unsustainable raw material regimes choices of corrupt politics politically out?

If you fix the corruptions of the land state and its crony materials in other words, sustainability of the oceans will more automatically follow. If we can learn about ecological engineering from the oceans, the dynamics of understanding the process on land will be that much easier.

[I'll be back to edit this a bit more soon--once more.]


Blogger Mark said...

Related "hot spot" whale issue, to tack on to other weather related global ones, above, mentioned at a link. With the current oceanic aspects, though it is certainly to be expected that whalers from the small handful of countries still whaling know about this already, and are there?

Scientists discover 'most important' blue whale colony

By Jude Webber in Buenos Aires
Published: 06 May 2006

Scientists say they have discovered one of the world's most important blue whale colonies off the coast of Chile, where the endangered animals appear to be staying for the summer instead of migrating south to the Antarctic to feed according to their traditional migratory patterns.

"What we are seeing is one of the biggest feeding and breeding sources, at least in the southern hemisphere," Ernesto Escobar, a spokesman for the Ballena Azul (Blue Whale) project, said. The project has been studying the animals in Chile for the past four years.

5/10/2006 6:24 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Beside the Mother Jones whole series, the LA Times has a Flash animation heavy series on the oceans.

Altered Oceans: A Five Part Series on the Crisis in the Seas"

Next, this article concurs with the video interview at Mother Jones--the one with oceanic documentary filmmaker/journalist Julia Whitty, originally aired on LinkTV. Whitty talks about acid water switch quite quickly in geologic scale time as well.

The best thing to do would be to immediately switch over from the particular institutionalized petroleum. Suggestions for it here.

COMMODITY ECOLOGY: From mere 'End of Pipe' Remediation, to Ecological Engineering for a Sustainable Economic Watershed

"This section veers outside the formal institutional discussion toward a proposal of how to make economically sustainable frameworks across each watershed in the world. This is done by going further than the "end of pipe" remediation strategies of both ecological modernization as well as Living Machines, toward democratizing a process by which we choose and use materials locally in the first place. Commodity ecology is the local watershed democratization of commodity choice and their interactions.

The other article on the acidic oceans shellfish issue.

Acid waters, dissolving shellfish
New research shows fossil fuels pose a deadly threat to coral reefs and marine life


Until now, concern about rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been focused on global warming. But scientists have discovered a second reason to worry: About half of the greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels -- an amount weighing about the same as 140 billion Volkswagen Beetles -- has ultimately ended up in the world's oceans.

While this has the beneficial effect of slowing down the rate at which the planet's atmosphere is heating up, ocean researchers have found that the huge influx of carbon dioxide since 1800 is making oceans more acidic than they have been for millions of years. If not reversed, this trend could destabilize -- or even threaten --much of the world's marine life, particularly animals that can't adapt to living in a more corrosive environment.

So far, the ocean's pH (the commonly used scale of whether something is acidic or alkaline) has become about 30 per cent more acidic over the past 200 years because humans have added so much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Scientists say this change has never occurred in the recent history of the planet -- either in such a massive way, or so quickly.

"The pH changes that are occurring in the ocean today are truly extraordinary," says Joan Kleypas, a scientist at the U.S. National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and the lead author of a report issued this month that rang alarm bells about the trend. "Unfortunately, this is not an environmental problem that we've had to deal with in the past, and so we really don't have a very good grasp of what this means for ocean biology."

Although experts don't yet have a thorough understanding of all the implications of a more acidic ocean, they do know it has scary potential for all creatures that secrete calcium carbonate to build shells or skeletons, including corals, starfish, snails and many microscopic varieties of plankton. Should nothing be done to stop global warming, scientists predict that oceans could become acidic enough that the shells or skeletons of the most vulnerable marine animals may start to dissolve, possibly as early as 2050.

This is a particular worry for coral reefs, which are viewed as the ocean's rain forests because of their amazing biological diversity. "What we're finding is that [acidification] decreases their ability to build their skeletons," says Chris Langdon, a coral-reef expert at the University of Miami. "We think this is important because one of the sure outcomes of this is going to be the loss of coral-reef framework around the world."

About 25 per cent of all ocean species spend at least part of their life cycle on reefs. But in a more acidic ocean, corals will grow more slowly and become less dense -- a process like osteoporosis in humans -- and won't be able to grow fast enough to offset erosion from wave action. Corals are also under threat of bleaching from rising water temperatures.

The reason that oceans are becoming acidic is that carbon dioxide is water-soluble and easily passes from the air into the sea. Most of the carbon in the ocean is in the form of bicarbonate, a familiar ingredient in household baking soda.

What is happening in the oceans is the reverse of the common high-school experiment in which vinegar, an acid, is poured on baking soda to produce a fizzy mass of carbon dioxide air bubbles. In this case, the ocean is holding the "baking soda," which is reacting with the influx of carbon dioxide to produce an acid.

Although there is intense debate about the impact that global warming will have on land, scientists say there is absolutely none about the alteration in ocean chemistry under way. And the impacts from a more acidic ocean will not reverse quickly, either. Even if all carbon dioxide emissions from human sources cease, experts believe it will take hundreds of thousands of years for ocean pH to return to normal levels.

Oceans at high latitudes, such as the Antarctic, Arctic and the Northern Pacific off of British Columbia, are more vulnerable to the trend than tropical oceans, and the Pacific Ocean is more vulnerable than the Atlantic. This is because the Pacific has what is considered older water, or water that has been submerged longer in deep currents. This allows it to absorb more carbon dioxide from the decay of organic matter. New concerns over ocean acidification will be flagged in the report expected next year from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations body amassing all scientific knowledge on global warming.

Martin Mittelstaedt is The Globe and Mail's environment reporter.

8/01/2006 11:39 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Ban Plastic: We're Smart, We Can Think of Something Else

Published on October 6, 2006 by the Inter Press Service

Marine Scientists Report Massive "Dead Zones"
by Stephen Leahy

Rising tides of untreated sewage and plastic debris are seriously threatening marine life and habitat around the globe, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) warned in a report Wednesday. The number of ocean "dead zones" has grown from 150 in 2004 to about 200 today, said Nick Nuttall, a UNEP spokesperson.

"These are becoming more common in developing countries," Nuttall told IPS from Nairobi, Kenya.

Dead zones can encompass areas of ocean 100,000 square kms in size where little can live because there is no oxygen left in the water.

Nitrogen pollution, mainly from farm fertilisers and sewage, produces blooms of algae that absorb all of the oxygen in the water.

Growing global populations, mainly concentrated along coastlines, and the resulting increase in untreated sewage are endangering human health and wildlife, as well as livelihoods from fisheries to tourism, according to the "State of the Marine Environment" report.

"An estimated 80 percent of marine pollution originates from the land," said Achim Steiner, United Nations undersecretary-general and UNEP's executive director.

"And this could rise significantly by 2050 if, as expected, coastal populations double in just over 40 years time and action to combat pollution is not accelerated," Steiner said in a statement.

The report is compiled from a wide variety of government, academic and other sources by UNEP's Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Sources.

In many developing countries, between 80 percent and nearly 90 percent of sewage entering the coastal zones is estimated to be raw and untreated.

These wastes contain bacteria and viruses that can contaminate marine species such as shellfish that are consumed by people, Nuttall said.

Studies in the Caribbean Sea have also shown that sewage encourages the spread of disease in corals, ultimately destroying them.

Around 80 percent of Caribbean coral has been lost to disease in the past 20 years, report researchers at the University of North Carolina in the United States.

Some cities in the developed world also dump their sewage directly into waterways.

More than one half of wastewater entering the Mediterranean Sea is untreated, as is 60 percent of the wastewater discharged into the Caspian Sea, the UNEP report found.

Unlike the United States and countries in the European Union, Canada has no national standards for sewage treatment for cities.

Montreal dumps billions of litres of untreated sewage into the St. Lawrence River, while the postcard-perfect tourist city of Victoria, British Columbia dumps all of its waste directly into the Pacific Ocean.

Such waste can contain high levels of toxic chemicals, heavy metals and excreted pharmaceuticals. The latter pose risks that are only beginning to be understood. Emerging research shows negative impacts on marine life from residues of birth control and antidepressant drugs like Prozac even at extremely low concentrations of less than one part per billion.

"The big unknown" is what effect these pharmaceutical residues might have on chronically exposed plants, animals and people, Christian Daughton, chief of the environmental chemistry branch at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has been reported as saying.

Expensive treatment plants are not the only solution to untreated sewages wastes -- coastal wetlands, salt marshes and mangroves can also do the job, Nuttall explained.

"It's important for governments to conserve and rehabilitate these natural features and take their value into consideration in their urban planning," he said.

Plastic is an even more visible environmental concern, killing more than a million seabirds and 100,000 mammals and sea turtles each year, according to previous U.N. reports.

Plastic bags, bottle tops and polystyrene foam coffee cups are often found in the stomachs of dead sea lions, dolphins, sea turtles and birds. Seagulls in the North Sea had an average of 30 pieces of plastic in their stomachs, according to a Dutch study in 2004.

The volume of plastic debris was estimated at eight million pieces a day in 1982 and is unquestionably much higher today, perhaps double or triple that number. About 20 percent of the plastic in the oceans comes from ships or offshore platforms; the rest is blown or washed off the land, according to the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy.

Plastic debris is now found everywhere, even the remotest regions of Antarctica.

Truly pristine locales no longer exist, writes David K.A. Barnes of the British Antarctic Survey in a recent paper.

"Some surveys have involved the first known visit by man to very 'remote' shores, but our miracle material had long since beaten us there," he wrote.

In parts of the Southern Ocean, marine debris has tripled in volume in the past decade.

Barnes has also shown that marine debris is transporting exotic species to locales they could never have reached normally, changing the ecology of some regions.

Most plastics do not biodegrade, they just break up into ever-smaller particles.

British scientists have discovered that microscopic pieces of plastic can be found everywhere in the oceans, even inside plankton, the foundation of the marine food chain.

"The problem of marine litter has steadily grown worse, despite national and international efforts to control it," acknowledges the UNEP report.

The report's findings will be officially presented to governments attending a review of the decade-old Global Programme of Action initiative taking place in Beijing, China, from Oct. 16-20.

There have been some improvements, the report notes. Levels of oily waste discharged from industry and cities has, since the mid 1980s, been cut by close to 90 percent. Marine contamination from toxic persistent organic pollutants like DDT and discharges of radioactive waste has also been sharply reduced.

However, larger challenges lie ahead, such as global warming and sea level rise.

"So we have a long way to go politically, technically and financially if we are to hand over healthy and productive seas and oceans to the next generation," Steiner said.

Ideally, there should be a commodity ecology conference immediately where teams from each of the 54 different commodity choices sculpt a model for the idea.

10/12/2006 7:09 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

All wild seafood will disappear in 50 years, says ecologists' study
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Published: 03 November 2006

All wild seafood will have disappeared from the world's menus within 50 years if current trends in overfishing continue according to one of the most comprehensive studies of marine life.

The apocalyptic warning is issued by a team of ecologists and economists from a dozen research centres who have studied detailed records on fish catches going back to 1950.

Their comprehensive study, published today by the journal Science, found the number of commercial fisheries that have collapsed was accelerating and that the total eradication of all fish stocks in the world is due to be completed by 2048.

"Unless we fundamentally change the way we manage all the oceans species together, as working ecosystems, then this century is the last century of wild seafood," said Steve Palumbi of Stanford University, one of the study's authors.

[inset: from another post toward this, on commodity ecology, some are already moving toward this ecological engineering "ecosystem paradigm" in fisheries management, i.e., managing all different fish commodities simultaneously for their interactions, instead of separately.

Hixon tells me that we need a Kuhnian paradigm shift in fisheries management. Current managers learned single-species management, and they’re resistant to changing that, even though it seldom works.” [Just as 54 different 'end of pipe' remediation strategies seldom works all on their own.] A scientific consensus signed by him and 218 other scientists and policy experts pleads for an updated approach: “From a scientific perspective, we now know enough to improve dramatically the conservation and management of marine systems through the implementation of ecosystem-based approaches.” ["The Fate of the Oceans"]

The suggestion of the bioregional state is that we require an equal ecosystem paradigm of commodities production on land--for the relations of rural land, urban infrastructure, and their interactions as well. If I had my way, all urban planners would be trained in ecology and commercial geography as a background. All environmental management personnel would get a training in environmental sociology of commodities, etc. It's the divisions of knowledge that is killing us, and the divisions across attempting to manage artificially "separate" commodities. The lack of overview systematic appraisals of how much we know already is killing us.

[back to the article:]

The four-year research project is the first to analyse all the existing data that has been gathered on marine fish and other ocean species as well as the ecosystems in which they live.

The researchers found 29 per cent of the world's fisheries had collapsed and the most vulnerable habitats were those where overfishing had already led to the extinction of some species, said Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

"Species have been disappearing from ocean ecosystems and this trend has recently been accelerating," Professor Worm said.

"Now we begin to see some of the consequences. For example, if the long-term trend continues, all fish and seafood species are projected to collapse within my lifetime - by 2048," he said.

"At this point, 29 per cent of fish and seafood species have collapsed, that is [defined by] their catch has declined by 90 per cent. It is a very clear trend and it is accelerating," Professor Worm said.

"We don't have to use [computer] models to understand this trend. It is based on all the available data," he added.

The study investigated the historical records of 64 large marine regions, accounting for more than 80 per cent of global seafood production.

Biodiversity - the richness of marine life - emerged as the single most important factor in the overall survival of an ecosystem.

"We found again and again, to an extent that was almost eerie, that no matter where we looked, biodiversity was at the heart of the issue," Professor Worm said.

"Whether we looked at tide pools or studies over the entire world's oceans, in losing species we lose the productivity and stability of entire ecosystems.

"I was shocked and disturbed by how consistent these trends are - beyond anything we suspected."

The loss of fish was just one aspect of the decline in the marine health.

The study found that the seas were becoming more prone to outbreaks of algal growths, as well as other diseases, and less resistant to the effects of climate change and pollution.

"The ocean is a great recycler. It takes sewage and recycles it into nutrients, it scrubs toxins out of the water, and it produces food and turns carbon dioxide into food and oxygen," Professor Palumbi said.

Many millions of people rely in the oceans not just for seafood but for other goods and services such as flood control and waste detoxification yet this vast economic benefit is under threat.

"This isn't predicted to happen, this is happening now. If biodiversity continues to decline, the marine environment will not be able to sustain our way of life, indeed it may not be able to sustain our lives at all," said Nicola Beaumont, an ecological economist from Plymouth Marine Laboratory, who also took part in the study.

The scientists emphasised there is time to turn things around.

Professor Worm said for instance it is still possible for people to eat wild seafood providing it is caught from sustainable fisheries by sustainable methods.

He also called for the establishment of an international approach to protecting the oceans along the lines of the coastal waters of north-west America and Canada which are one of the best-preserved fisheries in the world.

[This goes with the points made in the Project Okeanos essay above.]

All wild seafood will have disappeared from the world's menus within 50 years if current [unsustainable state industrial models of fishing, described above as] trends in overfishing continue according to one of the most comprehensive studies of marine life.

11/04/2006 1:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mark writes/reposts:

Interplay Of Climate And Currents Disrupts Marine Ecosystems

Science Daily — Oceanographers, climatologists, and ecologists at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting report that unusual ocean conditions and marine die-offs are changing the way scientists think about the future of ocean resources off the US West Coast.

The researchers' new synthesis of decades of atmospheric and oceanographic data reveals that increasingly wild fluctuations in winds and currents appear to account for a series of recent anomalous ocean events -- from repeated low oxygen zones larger than the size of Rhode Island to massive die offs of seabirds.

The scientists say that the underlying swings in winds and position of the jet stream are consistent with climate change predictions.

"There is no other viable suspect right now, no other obvious explanation," says Jane Lubchenco of Oregon State University. "We've entered new territory. These arrhythmias in the coastal ocean suggest we're observing a system that is out of kilter."

Understanding the interplay of warming, winds, and storms with ocean currents and biological productivity is a whole new area of study that is proving urgent.

In 2002, when scientists first documented low-oxygen zones off the US Pacific Northwest coast, they thought it was a startling, once in a lifetime, event.

But these "dead zones," which suffocate crabs, fish, sea stars, and anemones on the ocean floor, have continued, with 2006 now on the books as the largest, most severe and longest lasting dead zone on record for the west coast.

"It was unlike anything that we've measured along the Oregon coast in the past five decades," says Francis Chan of Oregon State University. "We're seeing more and more evidence that changing climate and changing currents can lead to big and surprising changes in something as fundamental as oxygen levels in the sea."

In 2005 and 2006, researchers also found tens of thousands of starving birds washing up on shore at times of the year when the birds should be healthiest. And scientists trying to predict salmon runs have recorded large swings in ocean temperatures at a much higher frequency than the past, a change that signals large shifts in the amount of food available for salmon, birds, and marine mammals. Scientists link the low oxygen zones and animal die offs to changes in the timing and strength of upwelling, a usually reliable and regular wind-driven process that brings cold, nutrient rich waters up from the depths of the ocean and fuels productive coastal ecosystems.

"We are investigating the idea that dead crabs and sea stars at the bottom of the ocean are correlated with changes in coastal winds, which are in turn driven by changes in temperatures on land," says Lubchenco.

Around the globe, areas of coastal upwelling which include the waters off the west coasts of the US, Peru, and Chile, eastern New Zealand, southwest and northwest Africa, and the Arabian Sea, are known for their abundant sea life and account for nearly 50% of the world's fisheries landings.

Upwelling on the US west coast typically begins during the spring, triggering growth of phytoplankton and fueling marine food webs from the bottom-up.

Many marine animals time their breeding and migrations with this influx of nutrients and growth of prey populations. But in recent years, changes in wind patterns and the position of the jet stream have changed the timing and strength of upwelling, disrupting these long-standing patterns.

"These are not just little blips," says oceanographer Jack Barth of Oregon State University. "Winds in both 2005 and 2006 are outside the envelope of what we've seen in the last twenty to forty years. They are the two most anomalous years in the last two decades -- and they are anomalous in opposite directions."

Starving Salmon

In 2005, relaxed winds delayed upwelling of cold water and nutrients by several months, resulting in water temperatures 6 degrees Celsius above normal and causing the typical boom in small, prey fish populations to occur too late for feeding salmon, seabirds, and whales.

"In 2005 we saw no upwelling in the spring, but then it came on so strong that we saw the same amount of upwelling in two months that we usually see in six," says Bill Peterson of NOAA. "The salmon go out to sea in mid-April to mid-May, that is when they always go out. But in 2005 they found nothing to eat -- by the time upwelling started, they were dead, starved to death."

Then, in 2006, unusually strong winds doubled the typical amount of upwelling, and increased the influx of nutrients to the system, but these strong winds ebbed in the month of May, just when salmon went out to sea. These mismatches in timing of upwelling are critical for many salmon species whose return to spawning grounds has been only 2-4% in recent years, and Peterson predicts that 2007 will be another low year for salmon returns.

Sea-bird Die-offs

In the spring of 2005, the volunteers who work as citizen scientists patrolling beaches found tens of thousands of seabirds washing up dead on beaches in Washington, Oregon and California. Emaciated birds littered the beaches because the normal spring upwelling that fuels food production didn't occur until much later in the season.

"In Oregon, the volunteers would literally wade through 80 dead birds in a mile. They feared no birds would survive," says Julia Parrish of the University of Washington who leads the citizen scientist program. Murres' and cormorants' breeding cycles are timed to coincide with the boost in prey fish in the spring. Tied to coastal breeding colonies, they are not strong enough fliers to travel hundreds of miles to find new food sources.

In 2006, scientists have also documented unusual die-offs of migratory seabirds such as auklets that visit the US West coast during the winter months. "They appear to be starving to death at sea. It's not bird flu, not another disease, not oiling or some other chemical," says Parrish.

Increases in the severity or frequency of storms, a prediction from climate change models, may also be a major factor in the survival of these seabirds. Winter die-offs are linked to stormy weather conditions.

"The total number of wrecks (die-offs) is increasing over time, as is the severity of these events and their duration," says Parrish. "This year we are heading into a mild El Nino and we are sitting on pins and needles to see what happens."

Unprecedented Dead Zones

The supercharged upwelling in 2006 also created thick, green-brown waters off the coasts of Oregon and Washington. When these phytoplankton and zooplankton blooms sank to the sea floor and decayed, they consumed large amounts of oxygen, creating a 3,000 square kilometer "dead zone" that took up nearly two thirds of the water column and squeezed mobile animals like rockfish into shallow habitats and suffocated everything that could not swim away.

"Phytoplankton blooms are normally thought to be a good thing because they ultimately support the food webs that produce the crabs, salmon and tuna," says Bruce Menge or Oregon State University. "But too much of a good thing can be bad."

Two months into the dead zone, the scientists surveyed the sea floor.

"We were shocked to see a graveyard," Chan said. "Frame after frame of carcass, carcass, carcass. Dead crabs, dead worms, dead sea stars." Two weeks later the scientists returned to the same place. This once biologically diverse habitat was covered with a white bacterial mass, indicating that the system had turned from low to no oxygen.

"The fact that we saw no fish - alive or dead - suggests that many were able to escape," says Lubchenco. "In previous years, fish that have escaped the low-oxygen area appear to have returned once the oxygen was renewed. This year may be different, however, because unlike earlier years, the living habitat was also suffocated. This year there was no home for them to return to."

Predicting the Unpredictable

"Climate change is upon us, there is no doubt about that, but what we don't know is exactly how it is going to affect upwelling," says Peterson. "What's catching us by surprise is the rate at which warming is hitting us. And, of course, how fast the ocean has changed -- that is what amazes me."

The scientists hope that by better understanding the interplay of warming, winds, and storms with ocean currents and biological productivity, they will be able to help managers and fishermen plan for changing ecosystems. Predicting shifts in ocean ecosystems requires sustained observations. "We are poised to deploy a fleet of underwater robotic sensors to enable better understanding and useful predictions," says Barth. If scientists can predict the impact of dead zones or years of low salmon returns, for example, managers can better adjust fishing quotas or regulations accordingly and fishermen can modify where and when they fish.

Scientists hope to get ahead of the curve on these surprises, but many mysteries remain. Despite intense hypoxic zones, for example, Dungeness crab catches in Oregon have been high in the last few years. In California, scientists are trying to understand why rockfish populations appear to be congregating in the northern and southern ends of their ranges.

Future changes in the timing of upwelling may favor particular seabird or salmon species, changing the make up of animals along the coast. And animals that live their adult lives close to shore, like mussels and barnacles, are likely to react differently than fish that live further offshore.

"We need to think differently about using and managing these ecosystems," [instead of managing separately the falsely individual and falsely unrelated species] adds Lubchenco. "We should be expecting more surprises. Climate models predict increasing uncertainty, with wild fluctuations. And this is exactly what we are witnessing."

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by SeaWeb.

3/02/2007 9:05 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

‘Has the catching of this fish impacted endangered species?’ ‘Is the population of this species still healthy or has it been overfished by industrial scale fishing practices?’ ‘Is this farmed seafood a better option, or is it doing more harm than good?’ Far too often consumers are left without answers when trying to find out if seafood products on their supermarket shelves have comes from sustainable sources. Inadequate labelling and a lack of publicly available sourcing policies have made it impossible for consumers and other market players to assess the sustainability of the seafood they buy and sell.

In recent years a ‘sustainable seafood movement’ has thrived. Consumers, retailers and seafood processors have started asking questions. The first step has been to demand transparency. As retailers started developing sustainable seafood purchasing policies they requested more accountability. They asked for sustainable seafood that has not been caught with destructive fishing techniques such as bottom trawling, and fish that does not come from overfished stocks.

This section of the Greenpeace website provides a quick insight into the history of overfishing and how we came to the current state of the oceans. It creates an overview over some of the main problems. It helps retailers and seafood processors to understand what a sustainable seafood purchasing policy is and how to develop one. Last but not least, with the Greenpeace “international seafood red list”, it lists 20 fish species at very high risk of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries (‘red-listed’) and explains the rationale for red-listing them. The international red list highlights key species companies should take action on as a first step in moving towards sustainable seafood purchasing policies.

Greenpeace's top 20 endangered fish to avoid and why:

[1] I think we require some form of common oceans management of a Coast Guard to demote industrial fishery technology and

[2] to encourage Venezuelan forms of solutions (banning international trawlers in their waters so their local populations can eat) as soon as possible. Places in Africa and India are dying communities because of international trawling operations (like around Ghana in a short documentary I have seen; or read about India in the book The Subsidy Scandal).

This collective jurisdiction over the oceans always 'activated' by participation of the local state only, can be done without extending it to land, as I suggested above.

12/07/2008 3:31 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

December 10, 2009
UN may curtail 400-year-old 'freedom of the seas'
Frank Pope, Ocean Correspondent


Recommend? (11)

The 400-year-old freedom of the high seas would be lost under United Nations plans to limit environmental damage.

Military forces of several nations are in discussions with conservationists over pooling surveillance resources to enforce the changes.

The “freedom of the seas” has given mariners legal rights to roam the high seas — a boundary that usually occurs 200 nautical miles from shore — at will.

Specialists gathered at a London conference are saying that fishermen have been pushing the concept too far.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea came into force in 1983 and enshrined the 17th-century concept of the freedom of the seas. But while being on the high seas puts ships outside the jurisdiction of any one country, the small print of the law dictates that nations ensure that no undue damage is caused.

Related Links

* Legal loophole threatens new marine reserves

“The freedom of the high seas has always been accompanied by attendant responsibilities in the Law of the Sea Convention,” said Jeff Ardron, director of the high seas programme for the Marine Conservation Biology Institute.

“They were not unfettered freedoms — they have just been treated that way. The time has come when we are finally going to implement the Law of the Sea Convention as it was intended,” he told the Natural England conference, entitled Sea Change: securing a future for Europe’s seas.

The UN General Assembly voted last week to impose strict regulations on high seas bottom-trawling vessels. Next February a UN working group will meet to discuss establishing Marine Protected Areas on the high seas to create boundaries within which fishing activities are restricted.

Fishing vessels are not required to carry the same automatic identification system that tracks the identity of merchant ships. Closing this loophole will be crucial to keeping their activities in check, said Kristina Gjerde, the high seas policy adviser for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

“On motorways we have cameras that can take pictures of who’s going too fast, but there’s nothing like that on the high seas.

“Enough governments are fed up enough with illegal fishing activities that there is a movement towards a global register of fishing vessels. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation is looking to acquire one.”

National defence agencies are being brought to the table to help to enforce the rules and discussions have taken place between conservationists and the Pentagon over possible synergies in preventing overfishing, piracy and terrorism. A European Green Paper is under consideration that aims to link the maritime surveillance capabilities of member nations, including both military and fishing interests.

“It is a question of keeping track of what ships are up to,” said Mr Ardron. “If you can combine national security with other types of monitoring then it’s a win-win situation.”

A spokesman for the Royal Navy said that if approached it would look for ways to assist.

Threats to the high sea:

High seas represent 95 per cent of the global biosphere in volume and contain ecosystems, vast natural resources and unusual habitats.

Free-for-all On the high seas, countries not part of a management organisation can fish with impunity

Overfishing Organisations manage stocks but some, like the Atlantic bluefin tuna, still crash

Destructive fishing Trawling methods scrape seabeds clean

Warming waters Changing currents can leave sedentary life stranded on isolated seamounts

Acidification Ocean chemistry is changing owing to CO2

Flags of convenience Some nations register vessels with little regulation

Source: Times database


12/12/2009 11:21 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Your Comments


(Displaying 1-10)

Scot Danner wrote:
Big-Fish Stocks Fall 90 Percent Since 1950, Study Says
National Geographic News
May 15, 2003

Only 10 percent of all large fish—both open ocean species including tuna, swordfish, marlin and the large groundfish such as cod, halibut, skates and flounder—are left in the sea

December 12, 2009 9:20 AM GMT on

Reality Dweller wrote:

"The “freedom of the seas” has given mariners legal rights to roam the high seas — a boundary that usually occurs 200 nautical miles from shore — at will. Specialists gathered at a London conference are saying that fishermen have been pushing the concept too far."

How can one push the concept of "free will" too far? Every political issue is the same...control, control, control and more control.

December 11, 2009 9:01 AM GMT on
Recommend? (18)

Georgia Doaks wrote:

At some point in the near future people in the UK, the US & other nations will begin to accept that their respective nations were hijacked a long time ago. They will give up trying to mend that which cannot be mended and begin strike out on their own.

They will look for a "place" where they can be free of any government, to recreate their nation with a jaundiced eye on the past, intent on not making the same mistakes twice. All land on earth has already been claimed though. It has been staked out and defended by the very ilk who now hold your nations hostage.

Consider that 70% of the earth's surface is water and has been free of most all law in the past, until now. No, this is only tangentially about fishing and environment. These are only the plausible rationales the same as global warming. This is about closing the escape hatch. It is about preventing the discovery that we are all just a few miles from freedom and freedom's last vestige, the oceans.

Let it transpire and you'll have no way out. Begin now to send small parties of boats out into the oceans, to explore the potential of this last haven of freedom. Solve the problems the seas will present and the freedom you seek is yours.
December 10, 2009 11:39 PM GMT on
Recommend? (39)

Richard Prior wrote:

The Pirates of Somalia can confirm the failure of the world to control their activities - in a tiny fraction of the world's oceans.

Who is going to police the entire oceans of the world and at what cost.

I vote to disband the UN and its "party" of moneygrubbers. I have lived more than 60 years and cannot credit the UN with doing anything of direct benefit to me, nor providing any value for money service better than some of the world's major charities (to whom we make elective payments).

The UN needs to justify its continued existence to the "people" of the nations that support it. Not just to the governments of the world that take decisions for their people. There is a nice referendum........ Vote for the termination of the UN.
December 10, 2009 7:48 PM GMT on
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finau seruvakula wrote:

Its tough to view the globe from the expension of our limited views and arrogance.unfortunatly when such arrogance breeds greed and man living way beyond their needs then we need to curb such selfishness with a higher regulation China included
December 10, 2009 7:10 PM GMT on
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12/12/2009 11:29 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Scott Truver wrote:

U.S. Navy Commander James Kraska, of the Naval War College, raises similar concerns. Writing in the December 2009 U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, he notes the “dark side of maritime domain awareness [MDA].” To his mind, MDA “…poses one of the greatest challenges to the principle of freedom of the seas, a pillar of sea power and globalization.”
This is not new. It has been a near-constant security-versus-freedom tension at least since Grotius wrote Mare Liberum in 1609, countered by Welwood’s Abridgement of All Sea-Lawes in 1613 and Selden’s 1635 concept of Mare Clausum.
How much unfettered high-seas freedoms are we willing to accept in the face of growing insecurities from diverse threats, threats that include environmental degradation and natural resource depletion? For example, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant, Admiral Thad Allen, has explained: “The challenge is enduring. The threats of the Cold War are gone, and we again find ourselves operating in an environment where piracy, illegal migration, drug smuggling, terrorism, arms proliferation and environmental crimes are carried out by anonymous, loosely affiliated perpetrators.”
At the end of the day, balancing the needs for regime on the high seas with the need for enhanced security and environmental protection will not come easy. Maritime domain awareness will be a critical element in achieving that balance.
December 10, 2009 6:38 PM GMT on
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John Skookum wrote:

Where do we go to vote out these jobsworths?
December 10, 2009 6:09 PM GMT on
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12/12/2009 11:29 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Gregory Baker wrote:
I didn't vote for these U.N. officials. Why should I let them dictate where I can go at sea?
December 10, 2009 4:16 PM GMT on
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Clive Burghard wrote:

Someone, is trying to take over the World, be ever vigilant!
December 10, 2009 4:14 PM GMT on
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Noelene Nicholas wrote:

HA ha
Good luck making China accept any UN regulation on fishing.
The loser countries will agree,and China will say,more for me.
December 10, 2009 4:00 PM GMT on
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HRD Vincent wrote:
"...vast natural resources..."

That would be the interest then eh?

Fence it off quick!
December 10, 2009 12:14 PM GMT on
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Sutton Boy wrote:

Ships should be subject to the same registration and enforcement that aircraft are.
December 10, 2009 12:03 PM GMT on
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Jen Wirral wrote:

More taxes from us for this then. And yet another money-eating quango and jobs for the 'boys'.
December 10, 2009 11:11 AM GMT on
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Liam B wrote:

Trawling Fishing vessels definitely need to be banned. They cause huge damage to subsea ecosystems, shipwrecks and oil/gas pipelines.

However, to limit the navigation of a vessel when it is trying to overcome the mighty force of currents, waves and prevailing wind directions, is simply pretty stupid. Unless the 'corridor' is created with this in mind.

Regarding regulation, maybe if our coastguard did its job, i bet we could pick up thousands of illegal ships entering our waters each year. Only a few months ago, the arctic seas, a suspected terrorist ship, sailed all the way down UK waters, north to south, without anybody doing anything about it! Yet you want to regulate the entire world! no way.

Mike Asacret wrote:

I was just wondering who is going to monitor all this? I've seen the control room for the English Channel traffic, and its a nightmare, so this is going to be much worse.

I'm quite sure some jobsworth will extend it to any and all private recreational vessels before too long.
December 10, 2009 9:28 AM GMT on
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12/12/2009 11:36 PM  

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