An article appearing in the Washington Post warns that the oceans are in crisis and points to a number of ominous signs, the sharp decline in fish stocks over the past few decades being one of the clearest.
The article notes that bottom trawlers that scour the ocean floor pose a serious threat to marine ecosystems, given that 98 percent of known ocean animals live on the bottom. The trawlers’ giant nets – some of them wide enough to accommodate two Boeing 747 jumbo jets – decimate ocean-bottom habitats in their path. The result is like forest clear-cutting, but on a much larger scale. Worldwide, each year nearly 40,000 square miles of forest are clear-cut. By contrast, nearly 6 million square miles of ocean floor are swept clean by nets every year, said Elliott Norse, president of the Marine Conservation Biology Institute, a member of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition. “Ocean conservation is poised to become the next global warming issue, said Gerry Leape of the marine conservation network for the National Environmental Trust. “The science is settled”, he continued. “The debate can move on from whether or not there is a crisis to what to do about it.”