Blog Authors | Oceana USA

Blog Posts by: HollyChase

Controversy over sea turtles has moved to the most seemingly innocent and unlikely of places... Mark Trail in the Sunday comics.

For those of you who usually go for comics with an immediate punch line, Mark Trail was created over fifty years ago and teaches readers about various wild creatures via the adventures of naturalist Mark Trail. Mark tirelessly defends the world from all environmental evils, including polluters, poachers, and marijuana growers.

Last weekend's installment (June 20th) outlined the threat endangered sea turtles face from baited longline fishing hooks. Mark visits an administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and learns:

"Scientists, working with the long-line industry, have come up with a hook that will save many of the big turtles!....By working together, NOAA and the fishing industry are saving turtles and an important industry"

Mark Trail easily distinguishes good guys from bad guys based on the presence of facial hair, but it seems that he has been duped by NOAA. The fishery service has indeed come up with a better and more efficient hook, but it is now retracting its proposal to require them. Using logic that would baffle Mark Trail, NOAA is rejecting three years of study showing that circle hooks reduce sea turtle bycatch by at least 60 percent.

Although good always triumphs over evil in Mark Trail's world, only when NOAA acts on the advice of its scientists will endangered sea turtles be protected from dangerous fishing gear.

The U. S. Commission on Ocean Policy recently released its Preliminary Report, and in a moment of inexcusable oversight, failed to adequately address one of the most significant issues facing ocean fisheries today, bycatch.

Although the commission recognizes that protecting our oceans is vital to sustain life on earth, the summary on bycatch does not reflect its commitment to this cause. The excerpt on "Reducing Bycatch," thrown in just for kicks, is a mere half page of the 413 page report.

After stating that bycatch is "a major economic and ecological problem," the commission goes on to say:

"Nevertheless, the total elimination of bycatch from a fishery is probably impossible, and too great a focus on bycatch could inhibit progress on other issues more important to ecosystem functioning."

Hmm. Considering the serious impact of 44 billion pounds of wasted fish each year, the logic behind this inference is unclear. The report also fails to give any new, concrete proposals to reduce dirtyfishing, and instead recommends more plans and studies. All talk and no action? Sadly, the extent of the bycatch section eliminates "talk" as well.

The Commission appears to believe you can't lose if you don't try, but unfortunately, fishermen, threatened marine life, and oceanic ecosystems all stand to lose if the Commission refuses to take action and give bycatch the attention it deserves.