In the yellowed and storied pages of National Fisherman’s archives, I ran across a 1958 report from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission on fisheries research difficulties.
The results of the 50-year-old report are fascinating to me in light of an article from the August 2008 issue of Fisheries, the journal of the American Fisheries Society. That article describes how habitat degradation and invasive species contribute to a severe decline in freshwater fish species. (See this week’s Fish eNews for more on that topic.)
Most fishermen would tell you that fishing effort is not the only contributor to the decline of many species. U.S. fisheries are so severely managed, that it’s fair to say if it’s not recovering, then we ought to examine and tackle a broader spectrum of causes.
(Most industry proponents would say we ought to do that with each and every rebuilding schedule, and I can’t say I disagree.)
What’s so frustrating is that the Atlantic States commission was saying that 50 years ago. Here’s an excerpt from the report, as quoted in National Fisherman:
“Perhaps the most serious effects of human activity, though they are not obvious at first glance, are changes produced by alteration of marshlands, for example, drainage and real estate development, deposition of spoil from channel dredging, deepening and widening of existing channels, construction of dams and other engineering works, diversion of river runoff for domestic and industrial use, and many other factors.
“More readily recognized are the effects of pollution by sewage and industrial wastes, which in their most obvious manifestations kill fish and other animals, but which may also have much more subtle and hidden effects upon growth, feeding, spawning, and other activities of marine life.
“If this question were simply one of protecting marine life, the solution might be relatively simple. It is complicated, however, by the rapidly expanding technological development of our civilization.”
The report goes on to stress that we cannot deny technological development. However, with the growing green/efficiency boom, we know what the power of combined public and private effort can do to effect change.