Sharks and Coral Reefs (One year on)
source : Monty Halls (Senior) Menu 'Articles' Summary
It is almost one year now since the formation of the SCCT and it seems like a good time to summarize conclusions drawn from 'Scientific Articles' and conversations over the period.
SHARKS. In spite of conservation efforts, the practice of 'finning' still continues and is exacerbated by a huge increase in the value of the fins (from about £35.00/kilo some twenty years ago to more than £140.00/kilo today). Although the IUCN (World Conservation Union) have made strenuous representations to CITES (Commission on International Trade in Endangered Species), highlighting an ever-increasing number of shark species on their 'endangered list', no robust action seems to have ensued at UNEP level.
There seems to be increasing evidence that the 'Cascade Effects' through the shark prey subspecies is impacting on seabed-dwelling shellfish (clams. oysters, razorfish, lobsters, crabs) - in some cases depletion to the point of non-recovery - the collapse of the Californian scallop industry this year being a case in point.
CORAL REEFS. Few people seem to have taken on board the massive threat caused by global warming - largely induced by the surfeit of carbon dioxide (CO2) releases into the atmosphere (thus a progessive 'acidification' (carbonic acid) of the oceans). This, in turn, inhibits the formation of coral reefs by zooplankton and phytoplankton no longer able to take up calcium from the seas. By 2012 the atmosphere will contain about 500 parts per million of CO2. At this point, the oceans will become 'CO2-saturated' and unable to take up the CO2 surfeit. By 2020, the formation of coral reefs will become impossible due to the inability of zooplankton to take up calcium dissolved in the water. In the meantime, coral reefs are progressively becoming dominated by algae to the detriment of the survival and function of coral polyps. This means that the habitat for a huge variety of molluscs and seabed dwellers will rapidly deteriorate. Fisheries worldwide will suffer and, indeed, the variety of seafood currently available in 2008 will vanish. The impact on health and national economies is far-reaching and whole reef-dependent communities (like some Pacific Islanders) will not be able to sustain their lifestyles. The impact really is that serious.
I suppose that the only mitigating thought is that the earth has experienced such ecological disasters in a geological time frame and come out the other side, but I think that we must all prepare ourselves and our sons and grandsons for some pretty sweeping changes over the next 50 years or so. The rate of change observable now is pretty alarming.
I also hope that scientific research will come along and lend a hand in reversing the trend.
The UK government long-promised Marine Bill (containing proposals for Carbon Capture and Storage and the introduction of Marine Reserves in UK waters) still seems to be 'on the back-burner'. This needs to be brought into being as quickly as possible - not that it is a 'cure all', but it is a step in the right direction.
Monty Halls (Senior)