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Arctic Fisheries

School of Sardines

In 1945, John Steinbeck wrote a novel called Cannery Row. In it he told the story of life in Monterey, California -- a thriving fishing port at that time.

But the story didn't end well, the ocean's changed, the fishing pressure stayed high and Monterey's sardine industry collapsed. Similar stories are now being played out in fisheries around the globe.

In each case, the environmental question is the same. How much fishing can the fishery stand? Take too much of the ocean's bounty too quickly and you end up with a devastating collapse, as happened in Monterey.

The facts are these: the number of fish that an ecosystem support is finite, that limit changes with climate, and fish can only make so many new fish each breeding season. Over-fishing now dominates most of the world's oceans -- the Arctic being but the latest concern. A study by the University of British Columbia found that actual catches there might be 75 times higher than originally reported to the United Nations.

Today cannery row survives thanks to tourists, instead of sardines. To ensure that there's no real-life sequel to Steinbeck's novel, inquire and purchase seafood from sources committed to sustainable fishing practices to help protect our oceans future bounty.

Script by Dan Maxwell