Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The last fishing boat on Lake Michigan

Here's a depressing article in the Los Angeles Times about the end of commercial fishing on Lake Michigan:
Today, for the first time since the 1800s, there are no commercial fishing boats operating out of Milwaukee.

The boats are gone because the fish are gone.

The lake appears from the shore as blue and beautiful as ever, but that's not the lake Dan Anderson sees through eyes creased and scorched from decades spent on the water and under the sun.

He sees a liquid desert. ...

This was once the wild, wooded Northwest, and the lake harbored one of the most spectacular freshwater fisheries in the world. Plump lake trout reigned atop a food web loaded with species such as perch, sturgeon, lake herring, whitefish and chubs.

As the article states, by 1900, commercial fishermen were hauling 41 million pounds of fish out of the lake every year. Through overfishing and pollution, the catch declined dramatically, but the real kiss of death for the lake was the invasion of quagga mussels, brought in the ballast water of ocean-going freighters.

Unfortunately, this is just one small sample of what's happening worldwide. In particular, we're rapidly destroying our oceans. Overfishing - and the use of fishing techniques that destroy as much as they catch - pollution, acidification (from increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the air),... it's really a combination of factors.

But the result is going to be catastrophic. As much food as we used to pull from Lake Michigan, it's a drop in the bucket compared to ocean catches. And because we're not fishing sustainably, sooner or later it will collapse.

We've already seen collapsing fish stocks of one species after another, but what do we do when the whole ocean is filled with jellyfish and little else? We're looking at a future of widespread starvation for people around the planet who depend on fishing for survival.

We know it's coming, and we're doing little or nothing to prevent it. What does that say about us?

Of course, Republicans want to gut the Environmental Protection Agency and end pretty much all governmental regulations. As you know, corporations will just naturally do the right thing. (Yeah, how'd that work out with mortgage banks?)

In fact, we should have had stronger regulations. Maybe then, there'd still be fish to catch in Lake Michigan.

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