Thursday, February 19, 2009

MPAs and Fishermen - Finding Common Ground

I just finished watching Common Ground: Oregon's Ocean. Common Ground is a three-part documentary about Marine Reserves and Marine Protected Areas off the coast of Oregon. If you have a spare moment, I would recommend viewing these films. If all you have is, literally a moment, I would say to go straight to the second half of Part I.

This part of the series was the most informational for me because the filmmakers went out and actually spoke to a lot of commercial fishermen who make their living on the coastal waters of Oregon. It was interesting to hear commercial fishermen talk about their initial reaction to MPAs, and to hear them reflect about how their opinions have changed over time.

A lot of the time, opponents to Marine Protected Areas are only looking at the potential loss of income due to closures of certain fishing areas. But actually, over time, MPAs can provide increased income for commercial fishermen, because by giving the big old fat fecund female fish a chance to reproduce in Marine Reserves and Marine Protected Areas, we are, in effect, repopulating the ocean with more and bigger fish.

Areas of High Conservation Utility on BC Coast
Our Canadian politicians should be sent a copy of Common Ground: Oregon's Ocean. From the sounds of PncimaWatch's recent comparison of American and Canadian commitments to ocean conservation, we've definitely got some catching up to do:

Canada lags behind as the US moves ahead

Even ex-president George Bush (not known for being much of an environmentalist) recognizes the importance of protecting our oceans. First, he designated one of the world’s largest marine protected areas in Hawaii in 2006. Then, one of Bush’s last actions as US president was to create a series of marine reserves in the diverse and pristine south Pacific totalling nearly 200,000 square miles, an area almost 20 times larger than all of Canada’s marine protected areas combined!

Continuing with this momentum towards protecting US oceans, President Barack Obama appointed Jane Lubchenco, one of the country’s most prominent marine biologists, to the most influential position in the federal government for oceans, the head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Lubchenco is a conservationist who devoted much of her career to encouraging scientists to become more engaged in public policy debates and has been critical of NOAA for not doing enough to curb overfishing.

In stark contrast to this progress south of the border, the recent Canadian federal budget demonstrates that Mr. Harper is not concerned with protecting Canada’s oceans. Renounced oceans scientist, Jeremy Jackson from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography said last week “You know you’re in trouble when George Bush proves to be more of an environmentalist than your Canadian politicians!”.

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