Subject: Environment-Oceans: Scientists (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Sun, 11 Jan 1998 21:37:22 -0500 (EST)

                      J. Michael Williamson
Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <>
                   Associate Professor-Science
  Wheelock College, 200 The Riverway, Boston, MA 02215
             voice: 617.734.5200, ext. 256
            fax:    617.734.8666, or 978.468.0073

"Follow in my wake, you've not that much at stake,
For I have plowed the seas, and smoothed the troubled waters"
                        Jimmy Buffett

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu,  8 Jan 98 23:53:00 GMT 
Subject: Environment-Oceans: Scientists

Environment-Oceans: Scientists say sea life  "In ...

  WASHINGTON, (Jan. 6) IPS - Marine scientists around the globe,
declaring there is a serious threat to life under the sea, have
called for decisive action to end the destruction of the world's
   More than 1,600 scientists signed a statement, released here today
at the outset of the U.N.'s International Year of the Ocean, that
urges the international community to take concrete steps to combat
threats to marine life.
   These measures include the ending of government subsidies that
encourage overfishing, increasing the number of marine sanctuary
areas and modifying or halting fishing methods such as bottom
trawling which threaten species and disrupt marine ecosystems.
   The signatories of the statment, who represent scientists working
in 65 countries, also called on President Bill Clinton to host a
White House conference on the marine environment to highlight the
growing crisis in the seas.
   "Because few of us spend time below the surface, it is easy to
overlook signs that things are going wrong in the sea," said Dr.
Elliott Norse, president of the Marine Conservation Biology
Institute (MCBI), which spearheaded the effort. "But scientists
who study the earth's living systems are far more worried than the
public and our political leaders."
   Norse said the scientists' statement, entitled "Troubled Waters:
A Call for Action," should serve as a "wake-up call that nobody
can afford to ignore."
   The majority of signatories are North American, but also include
marine scientists from: Europe, the Philippines, Argentina, Papua
New Guinea, Chile, China, Mexico, South Africa, Panama, Turkey,
Vietnam, Tanzania, Oman, and Jamaica. The scientists represent
countries whose fish stocks have been sharply reduced by
overfishing, pollution, atmospheric change and other threats to
marine life.
   The statement echoes warnings voiced during the first World Forum
of Fish Harvesters and Fishworkers held in New Delhi two months
ago. At that meeting, traditional fish harvesters from rich and
poor nations complained that deep-sea fishing fleets, supported by
more than $50 billion per year in government subsidies, were
devastating fish stocks and marine ecosystems on which local
fishing communities depend for their livelihoods.
   In November 1997, the United Nations General Assembly reported on
the slow progress toward ratifying the "U.N. Agreement on
Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks," the first
global effort to regulate fish stocks to ensure sustainability.
   But only 15 countries -- half the number of countries needed for
the Agreement to take effect -- have signed the pact since it was
first opened for signing two years ago.
   The statement released today set a much broader agenda, stressing
that life in the world's estuaries, coastal waters, enclosed seas
and oceans is increasingly at risk from a variety of threats which
must be addressed urgently.
   Those threats include the over-exploitation of commercial species
of fish, the physical alteration of ecosystems, pollution, and
changes in the global atmosphere.
   Over-fishing has decimated commercial fish populations and caused
the collapse of fisheries worldwide, including cod and swordfish,
while sea lion populations have fallen as competition for food has
intensified. At the same time, cyanide and dynamite fishing are
destroying the world's richest coral reefs, while bottom trawling
is "scouring continental shelf seabeds from the poles to the
   According to the statement, mangrove forests are vanishing, while
logging and farming on hillsides are exposing soils to rains that
wash silt into the sea, killing kelps and reef corals, just as
toxic waste from sewage and chemicals are poisoning estuaries,
coastal waters and enclosed seas.
   "If it's business as usual," noted Patricia Morse, a marine
biologist at Northeastern University in Boston, "we'll see more
declines in corals, fishes, marine mammals and seabirds. That
spells disaster for industries like fishing and tourism that depend
on healthy marine life, and for every human on earth because we all
use goods and services provided by the sea every day."
   She pointed out that oceans help regulate the global climate,
provide a breathable atmosphere, and break down wastes. "When we
destroy these ecosystems, we lose both their products and
   MCBI also pointed to recent epidemic diseases that have swept
through a number of marine species, from corals to dolphins, as an
another indication of the urgency of taking action.
   Mass deaths of long-spined black sea urchins in the Caribbean in
1983-84, harbor seals from the Baltic to the British Isles in 1988,
dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean recently, monk
seals in the Mediterranean and of corals in the Philippines and the
Caribbean suggest that the immune systems of many of these animals are being
seriously weakened by pollution cause by humans, the
paper said.
   To reverse these trends, the international community must take
urgent measures to ensure the sustainability of threatened species,
the scientists said in their statement. These include increasing
the marine areas protected under law from far less than one percent
to 20 percent of nations' exclusive economic zones and the high
seas by the year 2020.
   In a background paper released with the statement, MCBI compared
bottom trawling for fish to the "clear-cutting" of forests on land.
   "The area of seabed trawled worldwide (each year) is at least 15
times the area of forest that is clearcut," according to the paper,
which notes that trawling not only catches fish "faster than they
can replace themselves," but also profoundly alters the habitats
of the world's continental shelves.
   "The situation is so serious that leaders and citizens cannot
afford to wait even a decade to make major progress towards these
goals," the statement insisted.