Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Gone fishin'

The Wall Street Journal (you can read it for free for 2 weeks) has an excellent if grim story about the depletion of African coastal fishing by the "global fishing trade" (the word "global," of course, is WSJ code for the industrialized world). It is a story that demonstrates, as symptom, all that is wrong with how industrialized nations comport themselves on the world stage, voraciously feeding their infinite growth paradigms on a planet that is only so big. It involves the usual behaviour: unsustainable production, devastation of a distant environment, government subsidies for home-boy commercial enterprise and the resulting decimation of local industry. And all this is being accomplished without the usual help from the IMF and the World Bank.

It begins with the story of Mauritanian octopus fisherman, Sall Samba, who has had to lay off 10 men he employed as fishermen because fish stocks have been dwindling. It grows quickly from there.
Mauritania's octopus shortage is the result of the global trade in fishing rights between rich countries and poor. Impoverished nations like Mauritania have been selling access to their seas to European and Asian nations that have fished out their own waters. As a result, small fry like Mr. Samba must compete with huge trawlers from Spain, Russia and China. These days, at least 340 foreign boats are licensed to fish off Mauritania.

Wealthy countries subsidize their commercial fishermen to the tune of about $30 billion a year. Their goal is to keep their fishermen on the water. China, for example, provides $2 billion a year in fuel subsidies; the European Union and its member nations provide more than $7 billion of subsidies a year. Such policies boost the number of working boats, increase the global catch and drive down fish prices. That makes it more difficult for fishermen in poor nations like Mauritania, who get no subsidies, to compete.

The end result: African waters are losing fish stock rapidly, with ramifications both to the economies of Africa's coastal nations and to the world's ocean ecology. Over the past three decades, the amount of fish in West African waters has declined by up to 50%, according to Daniel Pauly, a researcher at the University of British Columbia.
This is the sort of story I expect will be in short supply once Murdoch gets his gloms on Dow Jones. So get it while the getting is good.

Read more....


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