The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Closing the High Seas to Fishing Could Save Coastal Fisheries
Researchers from the University of British Columbia say that closing the high seas to fishing could help coastal fisheries, increasing catches by 10 percent. But our waters are now more polluted than ever, threatening the entire food chain.
© Australian Fisheries Management Authority / WWF
Fish have responded to warming ocean waters by moving north and to deeper waters, and these movements are expected to accelerate. This has resulted in a redistribution of commercial fish stocks. Warm water species are now being found in higher latitudes and tropical water will see "substantial decreases in potential catches" according to the study published Tuesday in Fish and Fisheries. About half of 36 fish stocks in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean have shifted northward in the past 40 years, a 2009 report from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, said.
Warming of Northwest Atlantic WatersCredit: Janet Nye, NEFSC/NOAA
Similar issues have been seen in coastal fisheries. Maine has been enjoying a boom in lobster fishing as the catch in Southern New England declined from 22 million pounds in 1997 to 3.3 million in 2013. But all is not rosy in the Gulf of Maine, which is warming at the fastest rate of almost any sea. At the Portland Fish Exchange, where 90 percent of Maine's groundfish catch is sold and stored, annual landings are now averaging 5 to 6 million pounds of cod, flounder, haddock, hake and other species, down from 80 million pounds in the early 1980s.
Climate change is predicted to reduce global catches by 10 percent by 2050, a substantial risk to feed a growing world population. This risk is magnified among island and coastal communities in the tropics, where low income and indigenous communities rely on this key food source.
Uncontrolled and over-fishing has decimated many fish stocks. The Natural Resources Defense Council states that populations of large ocean fish such as tuna and swordfish have declined by 90 percent from pre-industrial levels. The World Wildlife Fund cites poor fisheries management and illegal fishing as key culprits. Just 1.6 percent of the world's oceans are protected areas, and beyond coastal zones, there are few if any restrictions on commercial fishing. Large, industrial-scale fishing began replacing small operations in the 20th century, rapidly depleting fish stocks. In 1996, at least 86 million metric tons of catch were taken, and perhaps as much as 130 million tons. The total catch has declined ever since. We've already past peak fish.
Groundfish catches in Maine are down more than 90 percent since the 1980s.Credit: Dan Zukowski
The University of British Columbia looked at 30 key fish stocks against three different modeling scenarios: cooperative international fisheries management, closing the ocean to fishing and maintaining the status quo. Under the status quo, global catches are forecast to decline 5.8 percent by 2050, with a deep-sea drop of 10.9 percent. The take in coastal fisheries, defined as exclusive economic zones (EEZ), declines by 5.5 percent. Under cooperative management, global catches increase by nearly 30 percent while the coastal catch increases 6.3 percent. The most dramatic benefit to coastal zones comes from a closure of deep sea fisheries, with a gain in the EEZs of 10.3 percent. Total global catch under this scenario declines by 3.4 percent.
Unquestionably, there's a trade-off. The researchers see it this way: "Although the scenario with sustainable high seas fisheries performs best amongst those that we explored, it is important to question the likelihood of achieving effective management of sustainable fisheries in the high seas."
Gaining full cooperation and enforcement is unlikely. Tropical countries are going to lose out most. High seas closure would help mitigate inequality in fish stock redistribution and enhance resilience of fish species.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.
Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.
Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.
SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.
It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.
Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.
In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.
The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).
"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.
The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.
"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
Ivory Coast's rainforests have been decimated by cocoa production and what is left is put in peril by a new law that will remove legal protections for thousands of square miles of forests, according to The Guardian.
By Karin Kirk
Greenland had quite the summer. It rose from peaceful obscurity to global headliner as ice melted so swiftly and massively that many were left grasping for adjectives. Then, Greenland's profile was further boosted, albeit not to its delight, when President Trump expressed interest in buying it, only to be summarily dismissed by the Danish prime minister.
During that time I happened to be in East Greenland, both as an observer of the stark effects of climate change and as a witness to local dialogue about presidential real estate aspirations, polar bear migrations and Greenland's sudden emergence as a trending topic.
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market. Cirou Frederic / PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections / Getty Images
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market, according to new research from the advocacy organization Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF), which bills itself as an alliance of scientists, nonprofit organizations and donors trying to reduce exposures to neurotoxic chemicals during the first three years of development.
By Kerstin Palme
Creepy-crawlies are among the oldest life forms on this planet. Before dinosaurs ever walked the earth, insects were certainly already there. Some estimates date their origins to 400 million years ago. They're also extremely successful. Of the 7 to 8 million species documented on Earth, around three quarters are likely bugs.
But several insect species could disappear for good in the next few decades and that would have serious consequences for humans.
Volvo introduced its first-ever all-electric vehicle this week, kicking off an ambitious plan to slash emissions and phase out solely gas-powered vehicles starting this year.
The report, released Wednesday, found that almost every European who lives in a city is exposed to unhealthy air, Reuters reported.