Today is the fifth post in this Monday series of subjects covered during my summer 2014 interview of Bill Reinert, recently retired energy engineer for Toyota who played a key role in the development of the Prius and then assumed the role of future transportation planning of alternative-fueled vehicles at Toyota. See his full bio here.
How the Overfishing Supply Chain Works…
K.M.: You have some thoughts about overfishing. Please share them with us.
Reinert: This subject really scares me.
I did some work for ten or more years down in the Galápagos Islands and part of what I saw down there was how the overfishing supply chain works. First, the artisanal fisherman, who rents his boat and his motor from importers in mainland Ecuador and Peru, pays his lease back with fish. It’s so horrible, because these boat owners put pressure on the small fisherman for bigger catches, all season catches, shark fins, sea bass, sea cucumbers, and the like. Big fishing boats from China, Korea, and Japan come sit just outside the protected limits and the artisanal fishermen bring them their catches.
Longer ago, these big Asian fishing boats would actually come into the protected waters of the Galápagos National Park, and I’ve seen them caught and put in jail for it, and you just know that for every incident in the Galápagos, there must be a thousand incidents elsewhere.
It is all so cold blooded. Money flows from brokers in the Far East into Ecuador, Peru, and Latin America to the intermediaries of these fishing operations.
To complete the picture, I’ve seen the unimaginably large fish markets in Tokyo and the enormous volumes of fish that come in and out of there every day. So I’ve seen this thing in operation from the little guy in Ecuador who’s illegally harvesting the sea cucumbers to that cucumber in the market in Tokyo and it makes me realize how huge and unstoppable it is and what an insatiable appetite there is in this world for fish.
We’ve overfished everywhere; we’ve overfished to extinction. The boats are going further and further out for their catches. We’ve reached our carrying capacity when it comes to the subject of ocean fishing. So, I heartily agree with President Obama in expanding the ocean parks around Hawaii and all around the Northeast.
What are the answers? Are the answers in genetically modified fish grown in fish farms with their pollution or the possibility of escape? I don’t know, but the good news is that in no fishing zones the stocks can replenish.
To see last week’s interview on “Limits to Growth” click here.
Coming next week will be Reinert’s comments on the subject of farming and monarchs.
Photo credit: FlickrCC by Takeshi Igarashi. Tokyo fish market June 2008.