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Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Marine biologist Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia gives a great interview in the online magazine OnEarth, mainly dealing with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that has led authorities to shut down the fishing industry in that body of water.

This could be good news for the fish stocks in it, says Pauly. He itemises the damage that can be done to both plankton and the fish that feed on them. The final third of the interview concerns overfishing generally - the magazine didn't let an opportunity pass to highlight the serious plight of the world's fishing grounds.

The price of fish would have to go up, says Pauly, if fish were being fished sustainably. At current levels of fishing, the stocks will eventually run out, he says, so reducing the scale of the take will allow us to "live off the interest". Taking the financial metaphor further, Pauly says industrial-scale fishing such as we currently undertake is a "Ponzi scheme":

Natural resources such as fish and trees and such provide a certain interest, so you can leave the capital in the bank and live off the interest. And that you can do forever. But we have extracted more than the interest. In other words, we have gone into the capital. So we have in effect run a Ponzi scheme on natural resources, and we have depleted the ocean everywhere, including in the Gulf where only shrimp and menhaden (a small fish used for fertilizer) sustain seasonal fisheries.

Pauly was used extensively in the film End of the Line which appeared recently and screened in Australia this year. There is an increasing amount of coverage of the issue of overfishing, including a segment, last night, on the popular 7PM Project on Channel 10. A major UN study on biodiversity is due to be published in October.

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