Protecting Earth's Last Frontier
In 1962, John Glenn relayed this message to mission control when his pioneering flight on the Friendship 7 spacecraft passed across Western Australia at night: The lights show up very well. Thank everyone for turning them on, will you?
If he looked down from space today he might no longer see just the lights of our cities but the many lights of fishing boats. These lights can be so dense that they visibly can be so dense that they visibly outline the outer part of the South American continental shelf and entire seas in Asia.
These lights are from fishers using light to lure squis. This intense activity symbolizes the broader plight of our oceans. The imposing footprint of humanity has advanced from our shores and into the high seas, the ocean waters beyond national jurisdiction. This footprint damages and depletes almost everything in its path.
With the depletion of the cod fishery and so many other coastal fish stocks worldwide, the fishing industry has turned to the high seas to exploit their resources. Fishing operations are targeting the seamounts, oceanic ridges and pateaus of the deep ocean beyond natioanl jurisdiction, where ownership and responsibility don't lie with any nation.
In the course of a decade or more, we have caused significant damage to largely unknown ecosystems, depleted species and probably doomed many others to extinction. Every day, commercial fishing fleets dispatched primarily from just 11 nations venture onto the high seas to fish the deep ocean with seabed trawls.
They deploy massive gear with names like canyon buster that indicate the sheer scales involved and the damage they inflict. Everything along their path, from ancient corals and sponges to 250-year-old fish, is stripped away and caught in their nets. In a single trawl, lumps of sponges, corals, and other species, together weighing as much as 10,000 pounds, can be removed. What is left is truly a stark, sterile, undersea desert.