'Fish Fights' Could Erupt as Climate Change Drives Species Across Borders
A study published in Science on Friday warned that climate change could spark global conflict over an unexpected resource: fish.
As waters warm, fish and other animals are already moving into new territory at a rate of 70 kilometers (approximately 43.5 miles) per decade, and that pace could accelerate in the future. If we do not act to lower greenhouse gas emissions, new fish species will enter the waters of at least 70 countries by 2100, challenging the regulatory framework for managing fishing rights, according to a University of British Columbia (UBC) press release.
This could lead both to overfishing and international conflict as countries compete for moving species.
"I've got a three-year-old son, and sometimes it seems like he's better at sharing than countries are with fisheries," lead author and Rutgers University assistant biology professor Malin Pinsky told National Geographic.
The research team included marine ecologists, fisheries scientists, social scientists and lawyers and used models to predict the movement of 892 different fish stocks, according to the UBC press release. Climate change tends to urge marine life towards the poles. By 2100, at least a third of many countries' national catch could come from species that didn't live in their waters decades before. In East Asia, where there are already tensions over fishing rights due to illegal fishing and disputed boundaries, some countries could find at least 10 new species in their waters that were managed by other countries before, National Geographic reported.
"Marine fishes do not have passports and are not aware of political boundaries; they will follow their future optimal habitat," study co-author and UBC postdoctoral fellow Gabriel Reygondeau said in the press release. "Unfortunately, the potential change of distribution of highly-valuable species between two neighbouring countries will represent a challenge for fisheries management that will require new treaties to deal with transboundary fish stocks."
The paper cited two examples of past disputes that hint at what's to come.
In the 1990s, Pacific salmon moved from British Columbia to U.S. waters as the ocean warmed, igniting a "salmon war," according to the Huffington Post. The UBC release explained that U.S. fishermen caught fish heading to Canada, while Canadian fishermen caught fish migrating to the U.S. At one point, Canadian fishermen even blockaded an Alaskan ferry, and British Columbia sued the U.S. In 2000, the two countries finally came to a new agreement and the suit was dropped, the Huffington Post reported.
In another example, conflict escalated in 2007 when mackerel migrated en masse into Iceland's waters, leading to a "mackerel war" between Iceland and the Faroe Islands and the EU over the two countries' rapidly increased mackerel takes. The war also escalated to a blockade when Scottish fisherman prevented a Faroese ship from unloading. Scientists said the dispute led to unsustainable fishing of the silvery fish, according to National Geographic, and the Huffington Post reported that the conflict scuttled Iceland's entry into the EU.
"Even in the countries with the best of governments, those disputes are difficult to manage," study co-author and sustainability researcher with the Stockholm Resilience Center Jessica Spijkers told National Geographic.
The paper urged governments to forestall future conflict by implementing policies that allow nations to trade fishing permits and quotas.
"Examples of such flexible arrangements already exist, such as the agreement for U.S.-Canada Pacific salmon and Norway-Russia Atlantic herring," senior study author and UBC Institute for Oceans and Fisheries associate professor William Cheung said in the press release. "Fisheries management organizations can draw from these experiences to proactively make existing international fisheries arrangements adaptable to changing stock distributions."
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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