Posted by: carlsafina | Tuesday, December 2 08


Recent notables:

George W. Bush, again.

For those who’ve forgotten, this guy is still president.

Associated Press updated 8:46 pm ET Nov 19, 2008:  Bush Set To Relax Endangered Species Rules

WASHINGTON – Animals and plants in danger of becoming extinct could lose the protection of government experts who make sure that dams, highways and other projects don’t pose a threat, under a regulation the Bush administration is set to put in place before President-elect Obama can reverse them. (see the whole thing at:

Bluefin, again.  

This year, the just-completed meeting of the Atlantic Tuna Commission (ICCAT) once again failed to listen to its own scientists and set an unsustainable quota of—not the 15,000 tons their scientists said was sustainable—but  22,000 tons. Closing the fishing during the breeding season? Forget that too. 

That’s for the eastern half of the Atlantic ocean and the Mediterranean. The Western stock is in much worse shape than the east, even though all the finger-pointing has gone to the problems of eastern excess, which are indeed major. But the Western stock is going extinct while everyone complains about the east. The problem is overfishing in both places.

The fact is that for years the quota in the West has also been much too high, due to commercial and recreational fishing industry lobbying. And we continue fishing in the spawning area in the Gulf of Mexico while the last few Western breeders gather to attempt to spawn.

Just last month, I lost a long-running lawsuit against the US government to close the Gulf to gear capable of catching bluefins during the spawning season. The law requires the US government to end overfishing, and the judge said that closing the Gulf to save the breeders would not by itself stop overfishing. So, I lost.

All the bluefin fishing is subject to limits but the limits are too high (and there’s a lot of illegal catch). If the limits weren’t too high, we would not have such problems. So we have a collapsed western stock and a rapidly declining eastern stock because of greed all around.

US boats have been catching a small fraction of their quota (about 10 to 15 percent of what they’re allowed) in recent years. The Commission cut the quota, but it remains higher than the catch, so the quota is not a limit. It’s like limiting your pasta intake by reducing your limit from 10 pounds of spaghetti per meal to five pounds per meal. Nobody is eating five pounds, so it’s not a limit.         

ICCAT’s official name is International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tuna; but think of it as the International Conspiracy to Catch all Tuna. It has always been broken, and the tradition of ignoring the science and insisting on higher quotas was set 25 years ago by US and Japan’s fishing interests. That tradition remains alive on BOTH sides of the ocean. No country has ever done the right thing toward maintaining these fish, though the US comes closer. But still, the US quota will be reduced to a level higher than the catch, so it’s all still meaningless BS on this side of the ocean too. 

The fishing on this side of the ocean is in tatters. The big runs of autumn, the “tuna fever,” the great herds of fish thundering across the blue prairies as they rounded Cape Cod, Montauk, Cape Hatteras, that’s all gone. This was by far the worst year ever.  But then, that’s true every year. What was different this year was that in addition to bluefin, yellowfins and albacore were nearly absent too.      

What’s really needed is a moratorium for bluefin, as I first said in 1991.           

That’s the bluefin situation. I must say that based on their whole history I would have been astounded if ICCAT had set an eastern quota that complied with the science. I’m ashamed of what they do, but no longer surprised. It’s what we’ve come to expect.    

The Commission also lamely debated sharks. Sharks are everywhere in steep decline. But all the Commission could come up with was an agreement to release bigeye thresher sharks alive. They are rare and a very minor part of the catch. Even if anyone actually did release bigeye threshers, we can expect continued widespread declines of all the big Atlantic sharks.  

ICCAT is a body resolutely incapable of doing the right thing. It’s less than worthless. If that wasn’t true, we wouldn’t have an ocean full of such disasters. We’d have fish. 

For more on this, see Andy Revkin’s blog in the New York Times.

Remember the United States of America?  

This, from The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor, deserves special mention and wide distribution. Imagine if the government suggested this now:

 It was on this day (Nov 26) in 1942 that President Roosevelt announced that the United States would begin a national gas rationing campaign on December 1st.  All Americans had to display a sticker in their car window saying what category of gas ration they had. Everyone started out at “A,” which got people about four gallons a week.  Local rationing boards were set up to assign a “B” or “C” ration to people who needed more gas if they could prove it was necessary for their work.

The campaign made propaganda posters that asked, “Is This Trip Necessary?” or said, “When you ride ALONE you ride with Hitler! Join a Car-Sharing Club TODAY!” Along with the gas rations, the national speed limit was set at 35 mph.

The gas rationing wasn’t a result of a gas shortage. The United States was self-sufficient in oil and was actually a major exporter of petroleum. But the Japanese had taken over the rubber plantations in the Dutch East Indies that produced 90 percent of America’s raw rubber, and there was no synthetic rubber. The government was afraid that if everyone kept driving, they would wear out tires that couldn’t be replaced. The factories and the entire war effort would come to a halt. So the United States’ first national gas rationing campaign was a roundabout way to conserve rubber.

The gas ration continued until August of 1945.

See the whole Writer’s Almanac installment on the Web at:


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