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2023
06
May

The oceans are protected–at least in theory…

Have you read the news? The High Seas Treaty aims to turn 30% of the seas into protected areas by 2030, to safeguard and recuperate marine nature. The president of French Poly announces one marine reserve after the other, browsing through the news about other Pacific nations one can be happy to see that most of the waters around the Marshall Islands are protected and lots of other island nations are installing marine reserves.

All’s peachy then, right? No more need to worry about the overfished ocean and we can all relax. So how is it possible that most reefs we snorkel out here in the Pacific are hopelessly overfished with only tiny fishies remaining? Why is it a rare occasion to catch a pelagic fish while trolling?

In Austria we have a saying that “paper is patient” and most of these ambitious protection plans remain grey theory indeed. In many cases the small print allows so many exceptions (for “artisanal” fishing, or traditional fishing, or commercial fishing as long as it’s local–at least on the patient paper, because who knows which international company owns the local fishing boat??) that waters are still happily officially fished empty. The next problem is that countries don’t have the resources (or interest) to control and police offshore waters where illegal fishing fleets happily roam with their AIS turned off.
In coastal protection areas corruption and nepotism prevent laws from being enforced, as there’s always somebody’s cousin’s cousin who needs the income from today’s overfishing (without a thought where tomorrow’s fish will come from) like we witnessed on an island in French Poly where the local police officer and biosphere representative also owns the fish trap where sharks, turtles and other protected species are killed and masses of parrot fish are taken for export.
So not everything’s peachy on this blue planet and we can’t just happily move on to other topics…

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