Thursday, July 10, 2008

As Oceans Empty of Fish, Fishermen Cling On....,

George Monbiot brought the hardline; All over the world, protesters are engaged in a heroic battle with reality. They block roads, picket fuel depots, throw missiles and turn over cars in an effort to hold it at bay. The oil is running out and governments, they insist, must do something about it. When they've sorted it out, what about the fact that the days are getting shorter? What do we pay our taxes for?

The latest people to join these surreal protests are the world's fishermen. They are on strike in Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and Japan, and demonstrating in scores of maritime countries. Last month in Brussels they threw rocks and flares at the police, who have been conspiring with the world's sedimentary basins to keep the price of oil high. The fishermen warn that if something isn't done to help them, thousands could be forced to scrap their boats and hang up their nets. It's an appalling prospect, which we should greet with heartfelt indifference.

Just as the oil price now seems to be all that stands between us and runaway climate change, it is also the only factor which offers a glimmer of hope to the world's marine ecosystems. No east Asian government was prepared to conserve the stocks of tuna; now one-third of the tuna boats in Japan, China, Taiwan and South Korea will stay in dock for the next few months because they can't afford to sail. The unsustainable quotas set on the US Pacific seaboard won't be met this year, because the price of oil is rising faster than the price of fish. The indefinite strike called by Spanish fishermen is the best news European fisheries have had for years. Beam trawlermen - who trash the seafloor and scoop up a massive bycatch of unwanted species - warn that their industry could collapse within a year. Hurray to that too.

It would, of course, be better for everyone if these unsustainable practices could be shut down gently without the need for a crisis or the loss of jobs, but this seems to be more than human nature can bear.