Seems like any time I read about ecology studies lately, its tales of waste and wanton destruction. And a recent paper in PLoS-One about “Ecological Meltdown in the Firth of Clyde, Scotland” was no different. Sigh. May as well have titled this post “Why we need Hands-Off conservation approaches.”
The paper describes commercial fishing in the Firth of Clyde, a small near-shore marine ecosystem nearly due west of Glasgow on the western coast of Scotland, from the 1800s to modern day. The researchers use the Firth of Clyde’s history as a mini-model to assert that the collapse of fisheries there, and poor policies regulating bottom-trawling, provide a snapshot of what is happening globally to the world’s oceans.
Species that were once caught in the Firth of Clyde in the 1800s, like herring, cod, haddock and turbot are now extirpated. Today, fishers target invertebrate bottom-dwellers like Norway lobster, nephrops and and scallops – all of which are caught using trawls and dredges dragged along the seabed. (Honestly, to me this reads like a tale of biblical waste. Not only are species locally extinct, but now people are tearing up the seafloor too.) The researchers say that these destructive and invasive fishing practices are causing a restructuring of marine communities in the area and that commercially-sought after fish have declined in both abundance and diversity. “The endpoint of overfishing,” they caution, “is now in sight.” (Italics are mine.) Continue reading