10 Easy Pieces

The most inspiring thing I’ve read lately about the oceans is “10 Solutions to Save the Ocean,” a series of short, upbeat, and to-the-point essays in the latest issue of Conservation magazine.

Featuring such oceans luminaries as Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia’s Sea Around Us Project and Carl Safina of the Blue Ocean Institute, the essays neatly capture the major threats facing the planet’s marine life. And they honestly describe the relatively simple solutions that can diffuse those threats—assuming that politicians, the fishing industry, and seafood companies can muster the will.

Consider this idea: alter harvesting laws that encourage fishers to go after the biggest fish. Based on assumptions that protecting small, juvenile fish is the best way to protect a fish population, fishing regulations often set a size limit under which fish cannot be caught. But marine scientists now realize that the bigger fish are the most effective breeders, and current regulations are leading to schools of fish of ever-declining age, size, and sexual maturity, which could cause fishery yields to dropby as much as 50 percent within only a few generations.

Among the other low-hanging fruit: give microloans to women in poor coastal communities, make fishers take responsibility for bycatch through tradeable permits, eliminate fuel subsidies to fishing fleets, establish international ocean zoning, and mandate simple modifications to fishing gear that dramatically reduce unwanted catches of turtles, sharks, seabirds, and other species (but which aren’t used because they cost a bit more and aren’t required).

For a detailed assessment of these and other threats to ocean life, check out Worldwatch's latest release in parnership with Greenpeace International's oceans campaign, Oceans in Peril: Protecting Marine Biodiversity, released on Tuesday.