Our Congress and Our Oceans: Sunday [Not]Funnies

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Our Congress (now at an all time low approval rating of just 10% according to a recent Gallup poll) consistently failed to pass regulations over the last decade to protect our coastal oceans, and now are trying to de-fund the Administration’  National Ocean Policy.  In the intervening years fisheries have collapsed and in areas the ocean quality has plummeted.


No one expects the politicians to understand biology, particularly something as complex as ocean food webs – this one, produced for cod, is considered simple:
Food web for cod (David Lavigne)

But we do expect them to support science and face reality.  Instead, they listen to  lobbyists, such as the Seafood Coalition.
(The Administration’s National Ocean Policy is built on H.R. 21, oceans policy legislation which had been introduced in several sessions of Congress over the last decade and never gained much in the way of support).

The Seafood Coalition is writing to express its appreciation to you for holding two recent hearings
on the Administration’s National Ocean Policy (“NOP”), which includes the controversial ocean zoning
component of Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (“CMSP”).
The concerns raised by the Seafood Coalition have been articulated previously by this organization.
In May, 2008, the Coalition wrote to then-Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rahall requesting
changes in H.R. 21, an ocean policy bill introduced in multiple Congresses and almost indistinguishable in its
provisions from the NOP.
The bill won little support over the past decade, and accordingly, made very little
This history suggests both that advocates of the National Ocean Policy (NOP) recognize that Congressional authorization
is necessary and that they remain unwilling to work with the oceans community to develop a measured and
economically sound policy.

Unable to block the National Ocean Policy, Congress members try to cut off funding:

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, says he, too, has serious concerns about the administration’s National Oceans Policy and feels that Congress should intervene.
Young’s office told CNSNews.com that the congressman is pleased that both the House and Senate Commerce appropriations bills de-fund Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning, but said “it is a real concern” that the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) will simply divert funds from other accounts to make up for these losses.


The Downturn of the Atlantic Cod
The lack of small prey fish seems most likely to have resulted from a decline in the abundance of their major prey, zooplankton, which implies a decline in productivity of the whole ecosystem.
… It seems more likely to simply have been the ultimate result of centuries of heavy fishing…a result which should have been predictable had we correctly grasped how the ecosystem works.
(We have largely failed to appreciate the ecological role of fish in supporting zooplankton, and indeed in enhancing basic nutrient cycling/ecosystem productivity…because we thought that mature fish were “surplus,” i. e. removing them would not weaken the system, or negatively affect organisms smaller than themselves. It looks like we were wrong about that.
Today’s trends are showing us what can be produced by a fishless sea…and it’s NOT a great excess of the lower forms that would normally be their prey…the declining trends in formerly dominant marine species can even be detected in barnacles and seaweeds (check out the seaweed photo galleries).
– The scientists responsible for assessing and protecting the health of marine life urgently need to address the question of significantly declining marine productivity that may have already occurred.
This theory challenges the usual view, but unfortunately it seems that overwhelming evidence supports it. Regardless of how unpleasant this issue might be, we need to honestly look at all of the facts and ask the questions:
What if we have been wrong about what ‘drives’ marine productivity?” “What if the current failure of the Atlantic cod is essentially due to simple starvation?”

More information:
PEW Environment Group
Ocean Commissions: Ocean Policy Review and Outlook
Causes of Decline and Potential for Recovery of Atlantic Cod Populations
Cod food web
National Environmental Scorecard

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