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Sea Around Us project newsletter, issue 59, May/June 2010 Bailey, Megan; Sea Around Us Project May 31, 2010

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Sea Around UsThe Sea Around Us Project NewsletterIssue 59 – May/June 2010Cleaning oiled seabirds:Highly overratedby Michelle PalecznyOiled gull and pelican at East Grand Terre Island,Louisiana. Photos by Charlie Riedel, The Boston Globe.Since the Deepwater Horizonexplosion of April 20th, millions oflitres of oil continue to gush into theGulf of Mexico every day, intensifying whatwill turn out to be the largest oil spill inhistory.  The environmental impacts are highlyvisible, and images of dolphins, sea turtlesand seabirds struggling in oil are makingheadline news.  Emergency facilities havebeen established to clean the oiled wildlife.Seabirds are the most frequent visitors atthese facilities, especially vulnerable to oilspills due to their large marine ranges andfeathered bodies which lose insulation andflying ability once oiled.  However, throughmy seabird studies, I have come to realizethat this effort to relieve the seabirds of theirsuffering may actually do little more thanalleviate our guilt, and here is why:First, a cleaned seabird is not a saved seabird.Survival rates of cleaned seabirds range from1% to 80%.  Survival of a cleaned seabirddepends on many factors, including: severityof starvation and hypothermia whencollected, amount of oil ingested (oil can becleaned externally but not internally where itcauses chronic poisoning), stress caused bycontact with humans, species-specificcharacteristics that determine resilience (e.g.,size, foraging method), methods used toassess survival rate, and condition of theremaining habitat.  Furthermore, there is littleevidence that survivors breed successfully.Although cleaning oiled seabirds may reducesome suffering, it often has little or nobenefit at the population level.Second, the seabirds saved from this oil spillare a drop in the bucket.  Cleaning oiledseabirds will save a fraction of the thousandsof seabirds oiled in this spill, yet we killhundreds of thousands of seabirds everyyear when we entangle them in our fishinggear, deplete their food stocks, introducepredators to their breeding islands, destroytheir breeding habitat, eat them, cull them,and poison them with various chemicals,plastic, and oil.  Seabird decline is a globalproblem that requires global action.  I find ithard to believe that paying $4,000 to$18,000 per cleaned seabird is the bestapproach for advancing seabirdconservation.If we value seabirds and other marine life,we can better show this through actionsthat prevent oil spills, such as banning oilexploitation in wildlife-rich areas (e.g., theGulf of Alaska, where the smaller ExxonValdez spill killed hundreds of thousands ofseabirds) and reducing ourdependence on oil altogether.Page 2Sea Around Us – May/June 2010The Sea Around Us project newsletter ispublished by the  Fisheries Centre at theUniversity of BritishColumbia. Six issues ofthis newsletter arepublished annually.Subscriptions arefree of charge.Our mailingaddress is: UBCFisheries Centre,Aquatic EcosystemsResearch Laboratory, 2202Main Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia,Canada, V6T 1Z4. Our fax number is (604)822-8934, and our email address isSeaNotes@fisheries.ubc.ca. All queries,subscription requests, and electronicaddress changes should be addressed toMegan Bailey, Sea Around Us NewsletterEditor.The Sea Around Us website may be foundat www.seaaroundus.org and contains up-to-date information on the project.The Sea Around Us project is a scientific collaborationbetween the University of British Columbia and the PewEnvironmental Group. The Group supports nonprofitactivities in the areas of culture, education, the environment,health and human services, public policy and religion. Basedin Philadelphia, the Group makes strategic investments to helporganizations and citizens develop practical solutions todifficult problems. In 2000, with approximately $4.8 billion inassets, the Group committed over $235 million to 302nonprofit organizations. ISSN 1713-5214   Sea Around Us (ONLINE)... analyzingonly fishbiomassfrom, say,2005onward, wecould erasethe problemofoverfishingaround theglobe.Better baselines:Workshop highlights role ofhistorical ecology in ocean policyby Jennifer JacquetWhat we can’t see, can hurt us.  The useof inadequate baselines in oceanpolicy and management has allowedfor a steady erosion of both our perception anduse of marine resources [1]. As an example, let’slook at the New England Fisheries ManagementCouncil’s 2007 stock assessment for monkfish(Lophius americanus) in the Northwest Atlantic,which reversed the scientific community’sprevious proclamation that monkfish wereoverfished and in great need of rebuilding.  Therewas a perverse reason for the reversal: the newanalytic model (“SCALE”) for monkfish used togenerate the stock assessment was doneconsidering data using a shorter assessment timeframe (1980-2006) rather than the previously-used time frame (1963-2006), when biomassindices from surveys were approximately twotimes higher than 1980s estimates [8].  Usingsimilartechniquesanalyzing onlyfish biomassfrom, say,2005 onward,we coulderase theproblem ofoverfishingaround theglobe.  Many oceanpolicies callfor baselinesbut they also allow management to consider atimeframe that best suits certain interests andnot necessarily society as a whole. Improvingbaselines by taking an early industrial or pre-industrial perspective of the ocean could leadto more precautionary policies regardingfisheries quotas, pollutant discharges, andhabitat modification as well as theimplementation of no-entry oceanic zones,which could all demonstrably benefit humanity,even in the short term.  How to make theconnection from historical ecology to policy?This question was the premise of a five-day May2010 workshop led by Drs. Jeremy Jackson andJohn Pandolfi and hosted at the SmithsonianNatural History Museum.  I participatedalongside 19 others, including environmentallawyers (e.g., Kathryn Mengerink ofEnvironmental Law Institute and Steve Roady ofEarthjustice), marine managers (e.g., John Day,Director – Ecosystem, Conservation andSustainable Use, Great Barrier Reef Marine ParkAuthority and Billy Causey, Southeast RegionalDirector for the U.S. National Marine SanctuaryProgram), and scientists (e.g., LorenMcClenachan, Terry Hughes, and Julia Baum).Based on our collective experience and areview of the literature, we compiled marine-related examples of U.S. and Australianlegislation that is guided by baselines, themisuse of baselines, and policyrecommendations.Continued on page 3 - BaselinesPage 3 Sea Around Us – May/June 2010... manyhistoricalecologicalbaselinescontradict afunctionalbutfictitiousbias:  thatthe world isgettingbetter.As research uncovers thespecies abundance and richnessof the past [3-8], there is atendency toward disbelief.  Thisis because many historicalecological baselines contradicta functional but fictitious bias:that the world is getting better. This is not true in many places,including many parts of theocean.  How can we useexisting legislation to turn backthe clock even a little andregain some of the ocean’s pastbounty?  Watch for a paper comingsoon with some possible answers to this question.References[1] Pauly, D. 1995. Anecdotes andthe shifting baselines syndrome of fisheries.Trends in Ecology and Evolution 10, 430.[2] National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).  2007.Monkfish assessment summaryfor 2007. US Dept Commerce, NortheastFish Sci Cent Ref Doc. 07-13; 12 p.   Avail-able from: National Marine Fisheries Service,166 Water Street, Woods Hole MA 02543-1026. http://www.nefmc.org/tech/cte_mtg_docs/090317-18/Monkfish/Doc%203_2007%20Monkfish%20Assessment%20Summary.pdf[3] Jackson, J., Kirby, M., Berger, W., Bjorndal, K.,Botsford, L., Bourque, B., Bradbury, R., Cooke,R., Erlandson, J., Estes, J., Hughes, T., Kidwell,S., Lange, C., Lenihan, H., Pandolfi, J.,Peterson, C., Steneck, R., Tegner, M. andWarner, R. 2001. Historical overfishing andthe recent collapse of coastal ecosystems.Science 293, 629-638.[4] McClenachan L. 2009a. Historical declines ingoliath grouper in south Florida.Endangered Species Research, 7:175-181.[5] McClenachan, L. 2009b. Documenting loss oflarge trophy fish from the FloridaKeys with historical photographs.Conservation Biology, 23:636-643.[6] McClenachan, L. and A. B. Cooper. 2008.Extinction rate, historical populationstructure and ecological role of theCaribbean monk seal. Proceedings of theRoyal Society B, 275:1351-1358.[7] McClenachan, L., Jackson, J. and Newman, M.2006. Conservation implications of historicsea turtle nesting beach losses. Frontiers inEcology and the Environment 4(6), 290-296.[8] Palomares, M.L.D., Mohammed, E., Pauly, D.2006. European expeditions as a source ofhistoric abundance data on marineorganisms: a case study of the FalklandIslands. Environmental History 11(October 2006): 835-847.Baselines - Continued from page 2Photo of the group in the Sant Ocean Hall of the Smithsonian Natural HistoryMuseum.WelcomeIn May, Dr. Kristin Kleisner started a postdoc with the Sea Around Us Project. Kristin did herPhD at the University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science,followed by postdoctoral work at Texas Tech University and University of Western Sydney.Kristin will be working on global indications as part of a collaborative project funded byConservation International.The Sea Around Us Project also welcomes several new researchers. Debbie Shon and KJKim join the team to assist in catch reconstructions of South and North Korea. To help withreconstructing Tawainese fisheres, the Sea Around Us also welcomes Daniel Kuo.Page 4Sea Around Us – May/June 2010Publications Mail Agreement No: 41104508When I wasdone, Iknewinstantly Imust havesaidsomethingwrong.by Sarika Cullis-SuzukiThe UN experienceIf someone had told me this is where I’d end up,I would never have believed them.Yet here I was, just six months after completing myMSc at the University of British Columbia FisheriesCentre, at the United Nations Headquarters in NewYork City about to address a roomfull of delegates-in-suits seated behind little country name plates…wondering what the heck I was doing.The 2010 United Nations Fish Stocks Reviewconference took place May 24 to 28th 2010. Thiswas a global forum convened to evaluate theeffectiveness of the 1995 UN Fish StocksAgreement1. Current examinations on fisheriesbodies and fish stocks on the high seas wereparticularly pertinent to this conference: PEW2 wasinterested in the results of our recently publishedpaper on the global effectiveness of regionalfisheries management organizations (RFMOs), soasked Daniel Pauly to present our findings. But Dr.Pauly was to be in Peru at the time of the UNevent, and thus could not make it. So he sent me.The research Dr. Pauly and I carried out describesthe effectiveness of the current 18 global RFMOs(see Sea Around Us 55), i.e., the internationalfishing organizations that were established to‘manage’ and ‘conserve’  fish stocks on the highseas. The main findings of our work are that RFMOsare neglecting to uphold their duties as establishedby the UN Fish Stocks Agreement, and are thusfailing the high seas; literally: they score low bothin theoretical effectiveness (as determined by theirwritten texts) and even lower in practicaleffectiveness (as determined by the actual state ofthe stocks they manage).At the UN event in New York, everything wasinteresting… even the lineups (I had my phototaken with Mr. Joji Morishita while in line, like a truetourist). After getting a pass (to get our real pass),we were well on our way, and after security wewere finally inside. And now it was impossible notto get caught up in the excitement and bustle ofthe place: hundreds of people from all over theworld, all walking with purpose, dressed up in suitsor traditional wear, and oh! There’s Mr. Ban Ki Moon!Exhibits, full rooms, speakers with flags wavingbehind them… It felt like… like this is wherethings came together, like this is where progresswas being made. The historic sculpturesrepresenting justice and peace overruling war andhatred added to the place’s powerful impression.We felt part of something very grand indeed.All this temporarily distracted me from the task athand, and suddenly it was time to get ready for mytalk. The delegates began filing into the room, and Iwas fiddling with the translator box, wonderingwhy it was suddenly so hot in here.Had I known the audience would include the verypeople I evaluated in my research- i.e., delegatesof many of the world’s RFMOs- I doubt I wouldhave used such strong language or been so directin speech. But I was lucky: I didn’tknow. So I was bold.There were four of us speakers onthe panel, all connected with PEW.I followed the mc, mypresentation lasting only 10minutes. When I was done, I knewinstantly I must have saidsomething wrong. You could haveheard a pin drop. And then, upshot the hand of a representativeof Norway (those name platessure are handy) who apparentlycouldn’t wait until the otherspeakers had presented: he had tovoice his displeasure with myWith Mr. Joji Morishita, Counsellor of the Japan Fisheries Agency.Continued on page 5 - UN meetingPage 5 Sea Around Us – May/June 2010methodology and my data right away, and tell mejust how wrong I was.And so it went, after the other three panelists hadspoken- two scientists and a lawyer, all women- foran hour and a half: the questioning continued. Andalmost every question was launched at me. Andalmost all the questions were criticisms. I wasbeginning to wonder what I had done wrong, orhow I could be any more clear- most of the‘comments’ were the same, and so I found myselfrepeating things, with special emphasis on the factthat I could only state what the data showed. Whenone particularly determined delegate asked whereI got my data from, because they had to be faulty, Ihad to answer him honestly that I took them fromhis RFMO’s website. He finally went quiet. Throughtheir questions and reactions it was clear that thesewere business people first, and conservationorganizations second; they had little patience formy results or my conclusions. Of course Iunderstood that they had to defend theirorganizations, but it saddened me to hear thempick out and argue the mundane details of mystudy and painstakingly ignore the big picture.When it was all over, I didn’t feel good. I didn’t feelhappy or satisfied. I felt like bawling. I felt veryguilty for having upset these people. Further, itwasn’t a pleasant experience to ‘defend’ myselfand my work over and over to a bunch of agitatedstrangers. And it was troubling to have peopleangry with my work because they say they don’tunderstand it… only to follow up with thecomment that they don’t ‘have time’ to read theresearch and become informed. Overall, when itwas done I felt sad. Watching people refuse to takeownership for the state of the very thingstheir organization was founded for, anddepends on, was harsh.At that moment, I understood whypeople, especially scientists, don’t speakout. Because it can make youuncomfortable. On so many levels. And itforced me to question myself: were mystatements too strong? Did extrapolatingto the global scale make my study’sresults inherently useless? How am I evenqualified to speak with any confidenceabout these things? I wondered if, in theend, I had any right to be addressing thesepeople and making statements on thesepowerful organizations.A few days later, safely back in Vancouver, I got aphone call from someone saying the conferenceand the results of the press briefing were all overthe internet. A quick Google search revealed justhow broadly the event had been picked up. Itoccurred to me that had my language beenanything less than strong, my speech any lessdirect, my conclusions less severe, the audience atthe conference would surely have been half thesize. I am sure I would not have been quoted in themedia. And I am sure I would not have upsetanyone. In short, I doubt my presentation wouldhave mattered. Conversely, though perhaps a longshot, I hope the outcome of this event and thefindings of our research cause some heads to turn,force an RFMO member to pause and think aboutthe impact of their organization, or shock someonereading Fox News.Throughout this whole UN experience I have beenconscious of how important every step was, andhow often, science doesn’t end with something assatisfying as a publication. Indeed, science will leadyou, if you let it, to something highly unsatisfying,unsettling, and… invaluable.Thanks to the Pew Environment Group and the SeaAround Us Project for this insight.Notes1 Also known as the Agreement for theImplementation of the Provisions of the UnitedNations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10December 1982 relating to the Conservation andManagement of Straddling Fish Stocks and HighlyMigratory Fish Stocks.2 This study was funded by the PewEnvironment Group.UN meeting - Continued from page 4Standing outside of the UN building.... it wasclear thatthese werebusinesspeople first,andconservationorganizationssecond; theyhad littlepatience formy resultsor myconclusions.


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