The New Line comedy feature film, "Grilled," currently being directed by Shifting Baselines Executive Producer Jason Ensler, was the subject of compliments from Army Archerd in Variety last week. Not quite sure how a comedy about two steak salesmen (Ray Romano and Kevin James) squares with the need to save the oceans, but its great to see Jason (who once directed a 5 minute film about the Hyperion Point Sewage Treatment Plant that I produced) work his magic in the big leagues with Burt Reynolds as a co-star. I spent an afternoon on the set last week. It's going to be funny, funny, funny.
Ray Romano, star of Jason Ensler's movie, "Grilled"
"Island nations took a step toward sustaining the fishery last month, when a new treaty took effect to regulate tuna fishing in the western and central Pacific, the last major ocean area without a regime -- however flawed -- for managing fish stocks.
The United States, Japan and other fishing powers have yet to accept that Pacific pact, however. Needy island governments, meanwhile, are opening their waters to still more major appetites -- the Spanish, French and other European fishing countries, whose formidable tuna fleets already have depleted stocks in the Atlantic and have moved into the Indian Ocean." (Check out the story...)
Hundreds of thousands of Scottish seabirds have failed to breed this summer in a wildlife catastrophe which is being linked by scientists directly to global warming.
Guillemots, one of the groups of seabirds failing to breed
successfully in the North Atlantic this year.
This is exactly what "shifting baselines" is about. Blue whales appear to have "rebounded" to a population size worldwide of about 12,000. But as this article says, over 350,000 were harvested previously. So we're still talking about a population that is well below 10% of its original abundance.
Yes, I know there are those who would say, "we need to celebrate every little success," but what happens when you naively celebrate the news of a tiny uptick, then find out the species is so sparse that a single disease can wipe it out? Shifting Baselines is about keeping things in perspective since that's the only hope for making sense of ocean decline and eventually drawing a halt to it.
It's a start. U.S. Representative Sam Farr introduced a sweeping piece of legislation that incorporates many of the recommendations of the Pew and U.S. Oceans reports. There is no hope of it going anywhere this year given the timing, but at least it has now been introduced. Oceana quickly gave its endorsement to the bill, calling it, "CPR for the Oceans." (Santa Cruz Sentinel, PR Newswire).
Some of the material is quite thought provoking. One of the topics, Punishing the Innocent, refers to sport diving as a 'recreational threat' while angling is protrayed as almost environmentally friendly. Funny...most diving training agencies actively promote "look but DO NOT touch." Taking photos rather than taking game. Some agencies offer training specifically on these subjects, e.g. PADI's AWARE diver specialty courses.
MPA's are being created to preserve underwater environments. They may limit access, but by providing a undisturbed environment they provide living and spawning grounds for future generations of fish. Anglers aren't just 'fishing', many are also boating--with the associated noise and petrochemical pollution. CCA claims that there isn't sufficient scientific evidence to back MPA's. Can we afford to gamble like that? Why not be proactive and take preventative measures?
MPA's provide space for fish to hatch, grow, and mature. They provide part of the solution to avoid what could happen in the Tiny Fish PSA. How many anglers want to be catching a fish that is only a couple of inches long?
Ocean fishing in North Carolina is no longer free. As of January 1, 2006 you will have to buy a $15 permit for it. The Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) was one of the major supporters of this development.
"Mike Ward, president of the Coastal Conservation Association, a sportsfishing group, which supports the bill, was pleased. "This was a complete volunteer effort by concerned anglers," Ward said. He said that the legislation means that the states largest resource will be managed."
The Coastal Conservation Association: supported the North Carolina fishing fee.
Here's a good critique of the longtime tendency in the U.S. to let the fishing industry regulate itself, and why that doesn't work so well these days.
Fisheries Council Meeting
Residents of Hanalei Bay, Hawaii had a stressful 4th of July weekend, compliments of the U.S. Navy (probably). As many as 200 melon-headed whales, a deep water species, came as close as 100 feet to the beach. The locals eventually used a web of ropes and vines to herd them back out to sea -- a sort of reverse-hukilau, the traditional Hawaiian fishing technique of hauling nets to the beach.
And then ...
"Several hours after the Hanalei Bay episode began, locals learned that a six-ship Navy fleet 20 miles out to sea had begun a sonar exercise the morning that the melon-headed whales headed toward shore. Officials at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration said it is too early to conclusively link sonar to the near-stranding, but they said their top priority is to learn more about the Navy exercise."
"All the ama ama come a'swimmin' to me": the normal sort of Hukilau
that doesn't involve whales or the Navy.
So let's hear it. You saw the ocean symphony. Are we making more sense? Is this a cheap shot at fishermen (that they over-exploited the ocean) or is it a cheap shot at fisheries biologists (that they failed to prevent it)? Did you find yourself wondering at the end, "What are they thinking?"
Please take a moment to contribute a comment.
Our friend, the ocean, has absorbed half of the carbon dioxide we have generated over the past few centuries, but at a price -- it's become more acidic, and that's not good for sea creatures with skeletons. (Stories: National Geographic, Seattle PI)
The new Tiny Fish PSA from Shifting Baselines has been sent to 70 tv stations around California, covering every major market in the state. What's it going to do? Hopefully make a few people realize that fish are getting smaller in the sea and the time has come to do something about it.
Cast and Director of the Tiny Fish PSA. From left: Stevo Polyi, Tim
Brennen, Tyrone Carlisle, Randy Olson, Cedric Yarbrough
This summer Shifting Baselines has benefitted from the efforts of a number of volunteers, especially:
SARA TOWNSEND, a recent graduate of the University of Miami (Masters in marine policy) who worked many hours researching the materials for the new MPAs feature and helped present the new PSA at the Blue Visions Conference last week in D.C.
LINETTE ANCHA, a recent graduate of the University of Arizona, who is working on the SB Educational Curriculum and will give a presentation this week on Shifting Baselines at the National Marine Educators Association conference in Tampa.
AMY SCHOENFELD, who is about to begin graduate study in Journalism at Columbia University and runs the SB Blog, coordinates the SB Photo Contest, and also attended the Blue Visions Conference.
In addition, there have been another dozen volunteers over the past year including Ree Brennin and the graduate students at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (translation of SB materials into Asian languages), Christy Mahaffey (editor of the Rotten Jellyfish Awards), and Anna Cummins (celebrity recruitment). All of your efforts are sincerely appreciated.
Suburbanites are trying to stop traditional fishing practices in Spooner Creek, N.C.
Hurricanes cause phytoplankton blooms. Who knew?
Here it is, the price tag for protecting 30% of the sea.
Yea! We like Erin Simmons. This is actually a really good interview with her in Grist Magazine.
What's on your desk right now?
The usual: computer, phone, cell phone in dock, Rolodex, plant, desk lamp. Work stuff: papers, books (The Rockfishes of the Northeast Pacific, Organizing for Social Change). Personal decor: carved fish from Bhutan, Oceana water bottle, stuffed seal, "Shifting Baselines" tri-fold, jellyfish mouse pad from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Swarms of tourists are overrunning the nesting beaches of loggerhead turtles in Greece, despite the protests of WWF. Check it out...
A firsthand account in the Naples Daily News...
David Helvarg, Conference Organizer and Seaweed Rebel
How much is the population willing to shift its baseline as environmental decline continues -- do the people of Europe now accept this level of deterioration as being part of what is natural?
Between our obsession with Harry Potter, the proliferation of mega bookstores, and the success of Oprah Winfrey’s book club it may come as a surprise that reading books is on the decline in the U.S. A report released Thursday by the National Endowment for the Arts says the number of non-reading adults increased by more than 17 million between 1992 and 2002!! Check out the story…
And here’s the big question: Is the decline in book reading just a consequence of positive progress, or is this something we hope to preserve over the years?
Over at Oceana they are petitioning the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to put regulations in place that would provide strong protections for deep-sea coral and sponge habitats. NMFS has opened the petition for public comment, which means they are waiting to see if the public thinks it's a good idea or not.
If you care about this isssue, step up to the plate.
He tried it in 2002 but fell short. Time to give it another shot. On August 5, Austin, Texas businessman Paul Ellis will try to swim 35 miles from Cozumel to Cancun to help call attention to declining coral reefs. We're rootin' for ya, Paul.
Um ... here it is, from the Junkyard Symphony.
For the past two years NOAA has trumpeted the good news of rebounding fish stocks in their annual report released in May. But, as this article says (registration required)...
"... environmentalists, academics and some lawmakers have a different view. They speak of fish populations that have experienced precipitous declines and are just now struggling to rebuild. They note that out of the 215 stocks the government tracks, one-third, or 76, are being fished faster than they can reproduce. The popular George's Bank cod in New England has sunk 77 percent since 1978, while the West Coast rockfish known as bocaccio has nearly vanished, declining 97 percent since the late 1960s."
As important as it is to us to receive a steady stream of supportive comments (always HUGELY appreciated), it's also fun and interesting to get roasted from time to time by people who think we are wasting huge amounts of time and resources on being Hollywood gadflies. Just so everyone knows, regardless of what you think of the celebrity-packed Ocean Symphony PSA, the fact is it aired over 15,000 times around the country and generated over 2000 requests for SB Action Kits from the Ocean Conservancy which was pretty stunningly successful. We have our own sets of complaints about having to exploit celebrities for the mass communications, but there is no denying they are a huge help, are very generous to assist us for free, and are genuinely concerned about the issue.
SB CRITIC #1 (from South Carolina)
I understand your electing to go to Hollywood to get spokespersons, however, I personally view most of the Hollywood types as extreme liberals looking for another activist bandwagon to jump on. I personally refuse to watch any movie with Geena Davis, Susan Serandon, Alex Baldwin, Bette Midler, and several others as actors/ actresses.
I am a diver, recreational fisherman, a US Coast Guard Certified Captain, and own a construction company that as one of its venues is Marine construction. I am aware of the problems that you are trying to bring to our attention. But, I think more people like me would pay more attention to you if you used real people that are involved with the resource. Like fishermen, divers, charter boat captains, Dive vessel crew and captains, etc.
Take Tred Barta, a contributing writer to Sportfishing magazine. Most people love or hate him, not many in the middle. But no one can refute his experience- 20 plus years as a charter boat Captain. If he tells you something, and it has to do with the normal life of a Charter boat Captain, believe it.
I have no knowledge of any of the persons in your PSA video actually WORKING in the marine field. I would guess many of them own a boat, likely a large one, but not many actually run it themselves. They probably know very little about the ocean other than what you have told them.
Charter Captains and divers know the surface as well as the sea floor. I dove just this past Saturday on a wreck off the East Coast with a school of bait fish that was so dense that it blocked out the sun. How neat.
Anyway, get your message out, but staying away from Hollywood might be
a better way to do it.
SB CRITIC #2 (from Arizona)
Liked your concept of educating the public about the eroding Pacific coastline. I found your website a bit "too Hollywood" with the group photos of stars.
Less emphasis on the Hollwood types who are involved with the project and more emphasis on the scientists involved and why they think the project is important would help. Outside of the LA area the rest of the country is not obsessed with celebrities. We want good scientific information; that is what makes a website useful and educational.
Just last week I was speaking with an Israeli friend who told me he went diving last fall on Israel's coral reefs around Eilat. He raved about how well they have been protected and how beautiful they are today.
And now for the perspective of someone whose baseline has not been shifted. Dr. Yossi Loya has been diving on the reefs of Eilat since the beginning of time. Of all people, he should know how they are doing, which in his opinion is very bad -- primarily due to fish farming and sewage input.
This is why we are running the Shifting Baselines project -- this loss of perspective is happening everywhere. You hate to be such a skeptic, but every time you hear someone proudly proclaim, "well our coastal environment is in great shape," you need to ask, "compared to what?" Do they really know the baseline condition of the habitat? It has all been altered, it's just a question of how much.
Eilat, Israel where, according to Dr. Yossi Loya, fish farming and
sewage have devastated the coral reefs.
In one of the boldest moves in ocean conservation today, the Australian
government has changed the zoning of the Great Barrier Reef to increase
the area protected from fishing from 4.5 % to 33%. This is the kind of
environmental leadership that Americans can only dream of.
They're called MPAs. They are a worldwide trend. If you don't know about them yet, you're going to by the end of the summer. We promise.
Protecting the world's oceans will cost governments far less than the amount they spend on subsidies for fishing fleets and will lead to bigger catches in the long run, according to a new study.