No More Fish? Let Them Eat Cake: Oceans in the age of greed

(Counterpunch) A noteworthy report in The New York Times, “In Florida, the Seafood Becomes Less Local”, makes the case obvious to anyone with half a brain: the vision of the oceans to be the world’s future breadbasket is rapidly fading in the rear view mirror. I grew up with that vision. I can remember it in my fourth grade social studies because we were tested on it: where will our future food come from? From the oceans.

Damien Cave reports from the Florida Keys. The Keys are, of course, that special bastion of ignorance when it comes to measuring the impact and calibrating the response of rules and regulations meant to protect natural resources. Cave notes how little fish consumed in the Keys actually comes from Florida waters. We haven’t been able to protect our fisheries because we live in an age of Idiocy where the reality of scarcer resources we need to survive provokes the opposite of conservation– it provokes the impulses of greed: get what you can, while it lasts. We live in a time when being “for” a rule or regulation to protect the long term interest– which surely, the health of oceans is– instantly summons a hail of spitfire and brimstone from Fox News acolytes and dittoheads fueled by corporate interests. Instead of common sense and wisdom, we get a race to the bottom where crabs and scavengers flourish. That’s freedom.

“Jerald S. Ault, a marine biologist at the University of Miami and an expert in statistical assessment of underwater populations, acknowledged that scientists were still struggling to assess the damage from coastal condominiums and houses, which have destroyed many of the mangroves where fish develop.”

Well, yes: the scientists and agency officials will not only study, they will spend millions of dollars meeting in hotel rooms and banquet halls to build careers and devise new reports that will take decades to accomplish and end up on some county commissioner’s shelf, who doesn’t like its conclusions because they don’t please her campaign contributors. (I’m talking about county commission Natacha Seijas (VNS), from Hialeah, who killed the South Dade Watershed Study– the most exhaustive study of a water shed in the US, shelved after objections by local bankers and the engineering and development cartel. What is so stupid about Seijas’ reign of power is that her positions against environmental rules protecting shorelines and wetlands don’t mesh with the considerable interest of Cuban Americans in fishing. Oh well: we get the democracy we deserve.)

You don’t have to look any further than Biscayne Bay, where until the mid-1950s a highly productive fishery provided both food and incomes for Miami and beyond. It has all been fished out, and the fish have been prevented from coming back by the destruction of breeding habitat on mangrove coastlines sacrificed to development. “Unfortunately,” Ault said of today’s fishermen, “certain people have to pay a price for other people not paying attention to the resource.” The people not paying attention to the resource would be all of us and the Idiocracy that passes for elected officials and their legislatures over a very long period of time. It would be all of us who keep blindly putting deposits in banks and financial institutions whose shareholders couldn’t care less about protecting a resource if it affects their bottom lines. Then, they pass of their own net worth issues as grandly important to the broader public interest; in “jobs, jobs, jobs” or some other hooey.

I have empathy for fishermen. In large part, the joy of fishing and Florida’s bays brought me here. I have spent the better part of 20 years fighting with conservation groups so that future generations might have the same joys I have experienced, fishing on Florida’s bays. I have learned, too, that many of the people and interests on the other side, also love to fish. Just not here, anymore.

Right now, the US EPA is trying to impose standards on nutrient pollution in Florida, because Florida has failed its responsibilities under numerous laws. Stopping pollution of our rivers, bays and estuaries is one of the very most important measures to heal the food chain that fisheries depend on. This important effort has been opposed by the state for decades, fortified by campaign cash. The energy for this opposition comes from Florida’s agricultural industry, from developers, and the Chamber of Commerce: all of whose constituents do their own fishing in the Bahamas, or Gulf of Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica for predictable reasons. Nowadays, if you want to eat fish in the Florida Keys, more likely than not it is frozen from one of those places our own gold-plated standards have not touched. God bless, America.

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