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Fish and Life
March 30, 2007
by Jack Lynch
Yesterday my eight year old daughter talked about the possibility of living as long as her grandmother’s – over ninety years, and I said that she might live to be one hundred, that many people live that long today – so she’d see the year 2090 and beyond. That’s a pretty amazing potential.
Then today, my eye caught an obituary in the Washington Post. You reach a certain age and the obits become both more interesting, and a source of anxiety – a mixture of being caught up in the stories of long rich lives, full of struggles and successes, and the shock of the forty or fifty year old who passes suddenly in their prime – potentially, much like one’s self.
This particular man, a scientist in Nova Scotia, was previously unknown to me, but his work had caught my attention – a marine biologist, he had studied historical data from around the world and determined that oceanic fish stocks were losing their maturity sizes and being depleted. He and his colleagues, having pronounced the depletion of cod in the North Atlantic, and recommending the suspension of fishing for them commercially, had been called ‘radical environmentalists’ by their opponents and industry reps. However, he was a ‘consummate scientist’ to other experts.
His name is Ransom Myers. The historical depletion rates determined by his lifelong analysis have reached 90% of all fish stocks in the oceans. The oceanic fish, some still enjoyed on our dinner tables, are projected to be nonexistent by 2050.
No more fish in the ocean. Can it be believed? How will that feel in a world where men have been wedded to the seas for millennium? A world that Melville and the Bible described as showing God’s own face moving across the waters.
And back to my daughter, if she lives as long as her recent ancestors, she’ll live for forty years when there are virtually no fish in the oceans. It defies belief.
Tomorrow, she’ll head out with me for the first trout season she’s known, with her own red fishing rod. We hope she’ll catch her limit of five. And it will be a communal and memorable experience, whatever transpires on the waters that day. But even those fish are mostly there because they’ve been farmed and planted there, it’s nearly impossible for them to survive in local streams, except in the mountain ranges, because of heated water and pollutants and poor habitat.
In Maryland, work on replacing oysters and shad and rockfish are progressing. Perhaps there will be some hope in the dire warnings that will draw us back from the brink to restore our ocean life. But I don’t count on it. History is against us.
But I add my part to the efforts to maintain our natural resources, by working on issues of protecting the Monocacy River in Frederick County. One of these efforts is a proposed ordinance to place a protective buffer from development along the river’s sides. It will be coming back to a vote at the Monocacy Scenic River Board, after being tabled for five years because of resistance from farm and property rights advocates.
They may rise up again in opposition and influence our Commissioners to hold off on the proposal once more, but it is a goal of our county Comprehensive Plan, and fulfills its long vision. So I am hopeful that this board, declared by Gray, and certainly seconded by Hagen in spirit, to be the environmental board who will vote positively for the river setback.
We know that forest buffers are one of the best actions to preserve water quality, and I fear that today’s large farm and land owners, having been good stewards, will be replaced by folks with smaller parcels and less concern for soil and water. There will most certainly be fewer farmers among them.
Let them call me a radical environmentalist. If worrying that my daughter may see the end of ocean fish life, or never catch a trout or rockfish is crazy, I believe we need more crazy folks speaking out and asking for change in Frederick County, after all, this is where we live, and where my children are growing up.
If I can’t make a difference here for them, then what good, or curse, will come to my seventh future generation.
But of course, that way of thinking was the way of those peoples we killed off to take these lands as our own.