Japan and Whales
The latest reports are the Japan wants the International Whaling Commission to approve limited whaling of certain species by four coastal villages. On the surface, this would seem a reasonable request. Aboriginal populations are often allowed exemptions from rules pertaining to endangered species.
But... among the species Japan would like to start hunting is the humpback whale, which is considered a vulnerable species. Further, Japan already has a quota of 1000 whales a year. Critics contend that most of the meat of these whales, which are designated for scientific study, ends up in Japanese grocery stores and restaurants. And opening the door to larger quotas begs the question of where do you draw the line? If it is ok to take 50 humpback whales each year, what about 100? What about 500?
While I think moderation is the probably the best answer to the situation (allow some whaling of non-threatened species), it does raise questions about the depletion of the ocean's natural resources. Fish populations all over the world are down, particularly in areas that have seen heavy commercial fishing. Some estimates predict that by the middle of the century, wild fish stocks could be nearly non-existent, with catches nearly 90% smaller than the maximum catches seen in the heyday of commercial fishing. Already some 30% of species are showing major declines, including everything from lobsters and clams to tuna and cod.
The implications for the entire ocean food chain cannot be overestimated. Over consumption -- whether because of greed and waste, or because we simply have too many human beings eating fish -- is threatening the stability of the oceanic ecosystem.
My worst fear is that by the time we get the willpower to do something about it, the collapse will already be beyond the point of no return; that is, that we will not be able to reverse the damage we have done.
Of course, that isn't just for the oceans. In every area, our environmental policies are short sighted. I worry that we will really begin to tackle global warming only once the process has gotten beyond redemption. So too our dependence on fossil fuels.
I don't usually think of myself as a doom and gloom person, but these issues make me feel very helpless and hopeless indeed.