Most of us owe our existence to fish that swam in abundance in rivers, seas and oceans thousands of years ago.
We are now responsible for killing fish to the point of extinction; killing the oceanic life, destroying healthy water courses and tipping the balance of our global ecosystem into a death spiral. We all know that, but we keep on pushing the envelope and none of us work hard enough to end this aggression.
As Homo Sapiens we have constantly wreaked havoc on our Planet in an attempt to emulate the self sufficiency of other animals co-habiting this place. Other species had inbuilt weapons of defence, like claws or poisonous sacs to kill their prey. They had protected skeletal coverings, with fur or armoured plates. They had massive teeth and strong jaws to kill in one bite. They could be lithe and fluid like snakes or leopards. They could fly and soar like eagles, yet their eyesight was so fantastic they could spot their prey from a great height and dive accurately to pick it up and escape to their nest on a rocky mountain. Tiny insects could kill us with diseases like malaria, or poison us with a bite like a scorpion. No, we seem to be an aberration, forever compensating for our poor design. We most likely crawled out of a swamp originally, like all living things. We evolved to where we are now; but we do not fit this magnificent planet. We are a swarming disease upon it.
Everything we have achieved has been hailed by us as a breakthrough to aid our survival. Since the first alchemy success of metallurgy to our cars, ships, trains and planes and ongoing technology. We cannot even clean up our mess effectively.
Early metallurgy and poisoning of our environment
We now know that something catastrophic ended the Bronze Age in Europe and researchers are piecing together what that might be. Here is an extract from one piece of that investigation:
A detailed record of historical lead (Pb) pollution from a peat bog in Serbia provides a unique view on the extent and timing of Balkan mining and metallurgy. Evidence of the earliest European environmental pollution is followed by large-scale and sustained increases in the amount of anthropogenically derived Pb after 600 BCE, through the Roman/Byzantine periods, and into the medieval period. Occasional evidence of drops in pollution output reflects the disruptive socioeconomic impact of periods of turmoil. Our data show a trend significantly different to records in western Europe, where Pb pollution decreases dramatically after the collapse of the Roman Empire. These results suggest metal-rich southeastern Europe should be considered a more major player in environmental metal pollution through time.
The Balkans are considered the birthplace of mineral resource exploitation and metalworking in Europe. However, since knowledge of the timing and extent of metallurgy in southeastern Europe is largely constrained by discontinuous archaeological findings, the long-term environmental impact of past mineral resource exploitation is not fully understood. Here, we present a high-resolution and continuous geochemical record from a peat bog in western Serbia, providing a clear indication of the extent and magnitude of environmental pollution in this region, and a context in which to place archaeological findings. We observe initial evidence of anthropogenic lead (Pb) pollution during the earliest part of the Bronze Age [∼3,600 years before Common Era (BCE)], the earliest such evidence documented in European environmental records. A steady, almost linear increase in Pb concentration after 600 BCE, until ∼1,600 CE is observed, documenting the development in both sophistication and extent of southeastern European metallurgical activity throughout Antiquity and the medieval period. This provides an alternative view on the history of mineral exploitation in Europe, with metal-related pollution not ceasing at the fall of the western Roman Empire, as was the case in western Europe. Further comparison with other Pb pollution records indicates the amount of Pb deposited in the Balkans during the medieval period was, if not greater, at least similar to records located close to western European mining regions, suggestive of the key role the Balkans have played in mineral resource exploitation in Europe over the last 5,600 years.
When we saw dying fish in rivers which we had polluted as a consequence of mining, we must have made the connection then with our activities. Perhaps we simply moved on to a clean, pure place and began our contamination process once again. Over written history, we have reported our habitually repeated mistakes, which is not a sign of a superior intellect.
Our ancestors, who left Africa and moved as small groups of between 20 to 30 people, practised fishing in the main to stay alive. They sought rivers and seashores which were teeming with fish. They used sharpened sticks to spear to fish, stones to smash the head of the fish, and ate them raw. Fish contain goodness which helps our brains to function. Most of us know that goodness is Omega 3. But fish today is contaminated by the consequences of Anthropocene activities, and fish are dying in catastrophic numbers.
This is not news. We have seen warnings for decades.
Trident Seafoods resumes operations at Aleutian plant in Alaska after monthlong COVID-19 shutdown. “The Seattle-based seafood giant halted operations Jan. 21 as the billion-dollar pollock season started and with cod and crab fisheries already underway. Plans to bring in medical supplies — and evacuate at least three sick workers to Anchorage — were complicated by stormy weather that delayed some flights to the Aleutian Islands.”
Ten supertrawlers, mostly Dutch, arrived in the English Channel, asserting their historic fishing rights, and many stayed for more than three weeks, in unprotected UK waters, prior to Brexit. Marine campaigners protested as such massive ships cause the death of dolphins, seals and porpoises. Of 18 cetaceans found dead in Sussex since September last year, 15 were recorded when supertrawlers were in the area. The mammals chase the same species of small fish as the supertrawlers catch so are drawn to their nets.
The invasion of supertrawlers, in unprotected waters, and therefore legally allowed, were named by Greenpeace as follows:
ARCTICA – Russian Owned
KAPITAN DEMIDENKO – Russian Owned
KARELIA – Russian Owned
BALTIYSKAYA KOSA – Russian Owned
KAPITAN NAZIN – Russian Owned
ZAMOSKVORECHE – Russian Owned
LIRA – Russian Owned
LAZURNYY – Russian Owned
MAARTJE THEADORA – Dutch Owned
VALERIY DZHAPARIDZE – Russian Owned
NIVENSKOYE – Russian Owned
ANNELIES ILENA – Dutch Owned
YANTARNYY – Russian Owned
KAPITAN SULIMOV – Russian Owned
KURSHSKAYA KOSA – Russian Owned
WILLEM VAN DER ZWAN – Dutch Owned
NAERABERG – Dutch Owned
AFRIKA – Dutch Owned
FRANK BONEFAAS – Dutch Owned
MEKHANIK SERGEY AGAP – Russian Owned
ZEELAND – Dutch Owned
HELEN MARY – Dutch Owned
CAROLIEN – Dutch Owned
The factory ships destroy the ecosystems. They exercise brutality as they cut out the ‘by catch’ from their nets. An example would be cutting off the tail of a porpoise and throwing it back in the water. Porpoises drown when trapped in the nets, are cut out and thrown back in the sea. Any tonnage of unwanted fish that is kept might be ground down and used for animal feed. Dead dolphins found washed up on beaches have cut marks on their fins and beaks, caused by cutting them out of the nets.
Fishermen in Dorset have also blamed supertrawlers for “wiping out” fish stocks and killing dolphins, the Dorset Echo reported.
Lloyd Gofton, a Brighton volunteer, said 5,000 dolphin deaths had been recorded in the UK over seven years, up 15 per cent on the previous seven years – but the real death figure was significantly higher because only one in 10 bodies washes up, although not all are caused by factory fleets.
Supertrawlers not only increased the deaths of dolphins, seals and porpoises, but also reduced stocks of their prey fish, he warned.
Cloaked by the Covid crisis, activities of foreign supertrawlers have caused havoc for the British fishing industry.
There are still humans who fish according to the needs and demand of their local population. They are not wasteful but show respect for the waters where they fish. In our Oceans there remain a small number of sea gypsies who dwell in harmony with the sea.
But deals are done by governments to take the money of corporate fishing businesses to overwhelm the waters near the coasts of poorer countries.
If we slice up the seas and oceans and apply negotiated international fishing rights we end up with supertrawlers casting their massive nets and consequently destroying the fragile ecosystems on which we depend. We humans have no divine right to act as if we own this Planet which has spawned us. We only rule this place in order to destroy it. Even a parasite does not intend to destroy its host.
A single discarded net (and there are thousands left in the oceans and seas) can kill fish over centuries.
Back in 2013 there was a blog on the Chilean overfishing problem, which warned so well of the impending catastrophe caused by irresponsible governments allowing overfishing using supertrawlers.
“What Chilean law sets aside for about 85,000 small-scale fishermen is seldom enough to fill their nets, he explained. So the prospect of a 30-foot-long by 8-foot-wide boat bobbing atop daunting swells in the South Pacific is now a reality for many of Chile’s artisanal fishermen………..The latest government data on fisheries found that over 70 percent of species are overfished, including jack mackerel, hake, sea bass and anchovy.…………Taken as a whole, the downward trend of fish stock in the South Pacific may well signal an alarming harbinger for global fisheries.………….
“It’s true there could be a global concern for the variation in fish stock in Chile and the region because what happens here has repercussions abroad,” said Jorge Toro De Ponte, executive director of IFOP. “Together with Peru, we provide close to 20 percent of the global fish production.”
The permissive fisheries law that allowed for unbridled exploitation can be traced back to 1991 when fish were still abundant and promoting growth was prioritized over environmental concerns. During this period, the Total Allowable Catch system in place sparked a free-for-all, dubbed the “Olympic Race.” A frenetic arms race ensued, characterized by rapidly expanding fleets, racing to capture as many fish as possible before competitors had the chance.
Fishing in Chile is a major industry with a total catch of 4,442,877 tons of fish in 2006. As of 2010, Chile has the seventh largest commercial catch in the world. With over 4,000 km (2,500 miles) of viable coastline, fishing has been a vital resource for small-scale business and family development for hundreds of years. Due to the Humboldt Current, the Chilean Sea is considered among the most productive marine ecosystems in the world as well as the largest upwelling system. Artisanal fishing is practised all over Chile’s 6,435 km long coastline and combines industrial techniques with pre-Hispanic traditions.
Typical human behaviour is to grab as much as you can when the window is closing for availability and absolve oneself of guilt.
Perhaps if you read this review https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/seaspiracy you might watch this documentary where the review tells us:
From the co-creator who brought you the groundbreaking documentary Cowspiracy comes Seaspiracy, a follow up that illuminates alarming — and not widely known — truths about the widespread environmental destruction to our oceans caused by human behavior. Filmmaker Ali Tabrizi initially set out to celebrate his beloved ocean, but instead found himself examining the harm that humans inflict upon the vulnerable seas. From plastics and fishing gear polluting the waters, to the irreparable damage of bottom trawling and by-catch, to illegal fishing and devastating hunting practices, humanity is wreaking havoc on marine life and, by extension, the entire planet. What Tabrizi ultimately uncovered not only challenges notions of sustainable fishing but will shock anyone who cares about the wonders of ocean life, as well as the future of the planet and our place on it.
As windows of opportunity are now closing on much of the world’s resources, we are grabbing what we can and creating laws to make that possible. We should have stopped fishing in many waters until stocks recovered, but we did not enact laws that would control that globally.
Sometimes the cause of deaths of marine life is contamination from toxins such as plastics, sewage, chemical leaks, oil leaks, mining waste, the list is sadly endless.. I will take a look at some of these in Part II.