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Overfishing? No, Pollution!

Running head: Overfishing or Pollution

Overfishing or Pollution?

Pacific Fisheries Management Briefing

Henry Kroll III

Axia College of University of Phoenix


Unmitigated bias has been detected in a video, Declinining Fish Stock, (2007), which is used as a resource to educate university students. The bias occurs in the way that the opinion of Pete Dupuis, a commercial fisherman (uneducated?), is contrasted with the interview of Jeremy Jackson of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. The video indicates that Jackson's 2001 report is backed up by a team of international scientists. It is as if commercial fishermen do not have spokespeople with reports, degrees and science behind them, which is false. At issue is of course the predicament of declining fish stocks worldwide. A resource plan is presented whereby a fair and balanced assessment of the situation encourages self-regulation and cooperation.

Preserves: a Conflict-Promoting Solution

The solution presented in the video, ocean preserves, promotes conflict because fishermen are territorial and used to fishing the same area. It is also, as Pete Dupuis analogizes, “shutting water off at the street” rather than fixing the plumbing leak. The usual way to preserve fish is to use quotas or reduce the length of the fishing season. The debate rages on about which method is best.

Reticent Fishermen

It makes sense that long-liners would be, quoting from the above video monologue, “unwilling to talk about the 10 year study by a fisheries biologist.” Fishermen have been orientalized by the overfishing agenda. They know that teams of knowledgeable scientists, researchers and experienced public speakers are willing to speak for them, so they keep silent. Unfortunately, our fisherman's ego sometimes makes us think our persuasiveness and opinions can stand on equal footing with experts (as they should) because we are on the water for longer periods of time. As a fisherman myself I will be the first to admit this, too, is a fallacy. Fishermen may not be experts. Supposed experts may not even be experts. Pete is right, however, in requesting more research. That research will be on the way for some time.

Burn, Straw Man, Burn!

Later on in the video, emotional images of what is presumably Pete's catch are decapitated and put on ice. As compelling as it is to blame fishermen that are offered up as a straw man, the viewer needs to examine the big picture. The swordfish shown in the video are predators. They eat Red Salmon, among other species of fish. Protecting them could actually result in accelerated abatement of other already depleted fish species. This is just one example of the ocean's complex web of inter-dependencies that complicate marine resource management.

In Cook Inlet, Alaska, the situation is found to be linked to the above. Red salmon have an annual migration that spans the globe. When they return to the river to spawn (reproduce), red salmon are counted. The number of fish returning to their spawning grounds (escapement) has been steady for years and is in fact well-managed, yet the population of caught fish continues to decline. This hints that something in Cook Inlet itself or the ocean is killing them off. Measurements of predatory species shows they have declined as much as 90% (among these predators is the swordfish reported in the video as being overfished), so we can worry about increasing predation if these swordfish protection measures go into effect. Pollution, including dumping of tons of extremely toxic drilling waste in Cook Inlet (the only place in the country where the EPA allows this) (Paula Dobbyn, 2006) is strongly implicated. Invasive species from ballast water discharge, is another major factor. Foreign fish processors operating outside our 200 mile limit must share an equal part of this burden.

A Return to Self-Management

The management solution I propose involves reducing and open sourcing the government bureaucracy that has failed to effectively manage our resources, less surveillance, more research, openness, encouraging of existing tribal, community and self-regulation practices, public education and positive reinforcement, such as recognition, within the commercial and sport fishing communities, emphasizing fairness and working with international fishing fleets to respect current overfishing agreements outside the 200 mile limit. Part of this fairness has to do with reducing foreign fish imports and sport fishing equally with any reduction in domestic commercial fishing. Curbing pollution, ballast water discharge, urban and agricultural runoff is another part of the picture. Supporting existing Native American groups, programs and organizations in resource management, pollution control and climate change initiatives is also necessary, rather than bypassing them with heavy-handed government action. Fishermen are being blamed by media, but knee-jerk legislation for protection of predator species is a short-term solution at best that leads to the decline of other species (prey).

Potential Opposition

Fair and balanced resource plans like pollution management and bolstering ongoing self-regulation may encounter opposition from well-funded places, including foreign fish processors and importers, the National Marine Fisheries, the Department of Fish and Game, oil companies and city waste water utilities. Fast food environmentalist organizations, the ones funded by oil companies, may also oppose these ideas. The majority of tribal governments and commercial fishermen should favor them, however. We should probably set aside our differences and leverage the internet to invite open discussion and collaboration between biologists, departments, fisheries and communities. All must all work together for a sustainable and prosperous community by ensuring that abundant resources are available to poor and rich alike, for generations to come.

Other Factors: Bycatch

Pollution and overfishing are not the only things affecting commercial fishermen. There is the media stigmatization of bycatch. Bycatch occurs when other species of ocean life are accidentally caught or harmed during harvesting of a particular species. Dolphins are of particular concern because their occasional presence within tuna and swordfish fishing areas. Modern fishermen are acutely aware of the problem of bycatch and have been in compliance with state and federal programs to curtail it for some years now.

Sustainable plans to reduce pollution and rebuild our resources will encourage funding to communities and create jobs while supporting a viable and self-regulating commercial and subsistence fishing industry that has been taking place for centuries.


Copyright (C) 2009, Henry Kroll III All Rights Reserved. Fair-use commentary and citations permitted.


Declinining Fish Stock. (2007). . Retrieved May 31, 2009, from https://ecampus.phoenix.edu/secure/aapd/axia/sci275/multimedia/video/declinining_fish_stock.htm.

Dobbyn, Paula. (2006, June 1). Cook Inlet Pollution Exception Protested: REPORT: EPA May Permit Oil, Gas Platform Discharges to Increase Threefold. - Science News - redOrbit. (2009). . Retrieved June 1, 2009, from http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/523639/cook_inlet_pollution_exception_protested_report_epa_may_permit_oil/index.php.

Kroll, Henry F. (2009). Unknown Title. Unpublished university forum post.