Food for thought: Food security, population growth & over-farming

We look at the state of global food security amid rising concerns about the world population and climate change.

https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/earthrise/2018/05/food-thought-food-security-population-growth-farming-180507063857949.html

 Climate SOSFoodEnvironmentAgriculture

There are currently 7.6 billion people on the planet, and they all need feeding. However, producing crops and rearing livestock is environmentally unsustainable. Nearly one-third of the Earth’s land is severely degraded and 90 percent of our oceans are quickly being emptied of fish.

The pace of harvest is relentless and with the worldwide population expected to grow to 10 billion by 2050, it is clear that our planet won’t be able to keep up the pace of food production.

3D Farming

Bren Smith is in the process of creating thousands of decent jobs, transform how we harvest food from the oceans, and blunt the effects of climate change and marine degradation – all at the same time.

The system he has developed to do this is called ‘3D Ocean Farm’, a polyculture vertical farming system under the water’s surface which grows a mix of seaweed crops and shellfish.

Scientists, fisherman and farmers have found that kelp reduces water acidification rate. It pulls so much carbon and nitrogen out that it changes the water quality [Alice Martineau/Al Jazeera]

Requiring zero inputs, it is the most sustainable form of food production on the planet, and it also sequesters carbon and rebuilds reef ecosystems. The crops can be used as food, fertiliser, animal feed and even energy.

“If you were to take a network of these farms, totalling five percent of US waters, you could remove the equivalent carbon output of over a million cars,” says Smith.

“What the kelp does is it reduces the acidification rate. It pulls so much carbon and nitrogen out, that it changes the water quality.”

In this episode of earthrise, we head to Connecticut to meet a commercial fisherman turned climate farmer who has developed a system of polyculture vertical agriculture in the ocean, called 3D farming.

Lab Meat

The global animal agriculture industry needs immediate and truly urgent attention. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, habitat destruction and is responsible for more CO2 being released into the atmosphere each year than all forms of transportation.

The impact of farming cattle on climate change is so significant that some experts believe that giving up beef reduces our carbon footprint more than giving up cars [University of Maastricht/ Al Jazeera]

While the statistics surrounding the industry are terrifying, there is no sign that the industry is slowing down. Meat consumption is on track to rise 75 percent by 2050.

Scientists at Mosa Meats in the Netherlands believe they have found a solution to this dangerous trend: growing meat in a lab.

This technique eliminates the need to harm live animals, eradicates the dedication of large swathes of land to the cultivation of animals and dramatically reduce methane emissions.

“Methane is actually a very powerful greenhouse gas,” says Dr Mark Post at the University of Maastricht. Post is part of a number of teams involved in research surrounding the production of lab-grown meat.

“[Methane is] 20 times more powerful than C02 and livestock is accountable for 40 percent of all methane emissions. This process would reduce the number of animals from 1.5 billion to 30,000,” continues Post.

In this episode of earthrise, we will visit the Mosa Meats lab who are at the forefront of this truly extraordinary meat movement, and examine the process behind it and learn of the huge benefits it could offer, while also looking at the varying social opinions on the new method of meat production.

https://e.infogram.com/49275ef0-2ed2-4bf6-97c0-abe37d9cf5b7?src=embed

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Japan faces record low eel catch, renewing stock fears

April 13, 2018 by Miwa Suzuki
Eel is a delicacy enjoyed all over Japan

Japan is on track for a record low catch of baby eels this year,
renewing fears about declining stocks of the endangered fish, a favoured
summer delicacy for Japanese.

At the end of March, Japan had 8.8 tons of baby “Anguilla japonica” eels
in culture ponds, including imports from China, Taiwan and South Korea,
according to a preliminary tally by the fisheries agency.

That is a plunge from more than 18 tons logged at the same time in the
last two years.

The tally refers to baby eels caught in Japan, as well as those caught
elsewhere in Asia and imported by Japan.

The fish are usually caught in the wild and sold to farmers who raise
them until they are big enough for culinary use.

The fishing season that began in December will end in late April, and
Japan’s volume is on track to fall below the record-low season-end
figure of 12.6 tons it hit in 2013.

Eels, known as unagi in Japan, are a prized summer delicacy and demand
for the fish is high across Asia.

In addition to overfishing, experts say river dams, pollution and the
draining of wetlands, as well as oceanic changes and parasites may be
playing a role in declining stocks.

‘Further depletion’

Japan’s fisheries agency strongly rejected the suggestion that
overfishing was endangering stocks.
The eel catch is at record low
The eel catch is at record low

“Annual catches are largely swayed by how ocean currents move… ‘The
haul halved’ does not mean the stock resource halved,” agency official
Tatsuya Nakaoku told AFP.

Environmentalists have regularly sounded the alarm on the status of
Anguilla japonica eels, with the fish on the International Union for
Conservation of Nature’s “endangered” list.

“We fear further depletion in the stock,” said Hiromi Shiraishi at
Traffic, a non-governmental group focused on the trade of wild animals.

“In addition, a bigger problem is that we think the current resource
control method cannot respond sufficiently to the decreasing stock,” she
told AFP.

She noted that the cap on eels in Japanese farming ponds is fixed at
21.7 tons, unlike that for tuna, whose quota decreases with signs of
stock depletion.

Eels spawn near the Mariana Islands in the Pacific and the babies travel
thousands of kilometres towards East Asia in ocean currents.

Their spawning process remains a mystery, and efforts to breed them in
captivity for commercial purposes have been unsuccessful.

Baby eels are cultivated in ponds. The peak unagi season for Japan is
summertime.

Many Japanese believe the eels, served barbecued and basted in a thick
sauce of sake, soy sauce and sugar, provide much-needed stamina during
the energy-sapping heat and humidity of the summer.

Prices for the dish have been on the rise in recent years, and this
season’s low catch will only push costs up further, said Takashi
Moriyama, chief of the Japan Eel Importers Association.

Even with imports of adult or cooked eels to boost supply, “prices will
rise inevitably,” he told AFP.

https://phys.org/news/2018-04-japan-eel-renewing-stock.html

How the Trump Administration Has Impacted the Environment Since the 2016 Election

Since his inauguration, on January 20, President Donald Trump and his administration have made many decisions that impact the environment, climate change, and energy. Some measures have repealed Obama-era policies, some opened reviews of existing rulings, and some approved controversial pending construction. According to an analysis by The New York Times, the Trump administration has “sought to reverse more than 50 environmental rules.” Of these, 25 rules have been overturned, 19 rollbacks are in progress, and eight rollbacks are in limbo.

Notable changes include Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, approving the Dakota and KeyStone XL pipelines, signing an executive order that called for the review of protected land (leaving 10 major sites vulnerable), reviewing national marine sanctuaries protected by the federal government, and efforts to dismantle the Clean Power Plan. Heading the Environmental Protection Agency is Trump appointee Scott Pruitt, who recently barred some scientists from advising the group.

Here are some highlights of other significant changes — some lesser known — taken thus far in the Trump presidency.

His administration ended the “stream protection rule.”

  Before leaving office, one of the last environmental regulations passed by the Obama administration is the Department of the Interior’s “stream protection rule.” In February, the Trump administration passed a joint resolution in Congress to end the regulation, which was meant to restrict coal companies from dumping mining waste into streams and waterways and, in turn, protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests over two decades.

In other waterway news, a 2015 rule limiting toxic discharge from coal-fired power plants into public waterways, slated to be implemented in 2018, was postponed by the government until 2020.

Rules about reporting methane emissions were called into question.

A relatively new rule mandated oil and gas companies to report how much methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, their sites emit. Back in March, Republican officials from 11 states wrote to Scott Pruitt asking for the ruling to be revoked. They called the rule “burdensome” and said the cost of the information request would be “enormous.”

Pruitt allowed for the continued use of chlorpyrifos.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was looking into a potentially toxic chemical called chlorpyrifos. The controversial pesticide has been linked to lower birth weight, reduced IQ, attention disorders, and a higher incidence of autism in children. It is an endocrine disrupter, which can cause “adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects,” and high exposures in humans can result in respiratory paralysis and death. It was banned from residential use in consumer products in 2000, but a decade-old petition calling for the EPA to ban the pesticide was rejected by Pruitt on the grounds of requiring more research into the chemical’s effects.

Offshore oil and gas drilling has been made easier.

Parts of the Atlantic coast and much of the water around Alaska were protected from offshore oil and gas drilling under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Trump repealed the policy in an executive order, known as the America-First Offshore Energy Strategy, making millions of acres of federal waters eligible for oil and gas leasing.

After the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, safety regulations were implemented to prevent similar disasters. A review of the safety rules, ordered by Trump, is ongoing. To make matters worse, the Trump administration is taking steps to allow five oil and gas companies to use seismic air guns — which can injure and kill marine life, including whales, dolphins, and turtles – to survey the U.S. Atlantic coast.

Rules about fishing limits were cancelled.

The mile-long nets cast along the U.S. West Coast to capture swordfish manage to catch more than just the fish: Some endangered sea animals get caught in nets. A 2015 proposal offering a limit on the number of animals that can be killed or injured by swordfish gill-net fishery off the coast of California and Oregon offered a solution. But it was canceled under the Trump administration.

Fuel efficiency standards are up for review.

In the 1970s, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules were put into place after an oil crisis. Under the Obama administration, the CAFE standards called for cars and light-duty trucks to have the average fuel efficiency of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 — a standard previously agreed upon by automakers. The Trump administration has opened a review of greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks for model years between 2022 and 2025.

Related: How to Fight Climate Change, as Explained by Al Gore

Endangered vaquita marina porpoise could be extinct by 2018: WWF

The vaquita marina, a tiny porpoise native to Mexico, could be extinct by next year if urgent action including a ban on gillnets is not taken, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature warned.

Fewer than 30 of the rare mammals (Phocoena sinus) still live in the wild, all in the upper Gulf of California, the WWF said in a report Monday.

The vaquita population has plummeted 90 percent in less than six years, down from 250 in 2011.

“If we don’t do something today, the vaquita could be extinct by 2018,” said Maria Jose Villanueva, director of strategy and science for WWF Mexico. “Losing it would be like losing a piece of Mexico.”

Villanueva told reporters that the only known threat to the survival of the vaquita—”little cow” in Spanish—are gillnets, long walls of netting hung vertically that trap fish by the gills when they swim through.

The nets are meant to illegally catch totoaba, an endangered fish about the same size of the vaquita.

Deadly gillnets

Smugglers ship dried totoaba swim bladders to China, where they fetch up to $20,000 per kilo. Totoaba bladder is consumed in soup or used for medicinal purposes.

Gillnets also catch a large number species that are not targeted. The WWF says the nets accidently kill some 700,000 marine mammals and birds around the world each year.

Some 374 gillnets have been removed in the Gulf of Mexico between February 2016 and April 2017, but the vaquita population continues to drop—six have been reported to have died this year alone, Villanueva said.

Nets up to two kilometers long have been removed in the area, Villanueva said.

The Mexican government’s two-year ban on gillnet use is set to expire in less than two weeks.

Mexican environmental authorities and conservation groups are working on an emergency plan expected to begin around September to move the vaquitas to a “temporary sanctuary” where they can safely reproduce.

The WWF experts support the measure, despite reservations.

‘Desperate measure’

“We see it as a desperate measure,” said Jorge Rickards, the interim director general of WWF Mexico.

“We consider this a high-risk measure because nothing like this has ever been done before,” he said, fearing the death of even a single vaquita.

Rickards called on the Mexican government for “an urgent plan of action” that includes a permanent gillnet ban in the Gulf of California.

He said the government must also help area residents whose livelihoods depend on fishing.

The Gulf of California, which was officially listed as a World Heritage site in 2005, is a source for half of Mexico’s fisheries production.

A broad array of species live in the area, including over one third of the world’s marine mammal species, five of the world’s seven sea turtle species, and almost 900 fish species, the WWF says.

In its report, titled “Vanishing Vaquita: saving the world’s most endangered marine mammal,” the WWF called on the government to clamp down on the totoaba trade, and to commit to a plan “for the recovery of the vaquita within its natural habitat that includes specific population increases and timelines.”

The conservation group also called on the US and Chinese governments to collaborate with Mexico “to halt the illegal fishing and trade of totoaba” by increasing efforts to “intercept and halt the illegal transport, entry and sale of totoaba products.”

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-05-endangered-vaquita-marina-porpoise-extinct.html#jCp

Only 43 Maui’s Dolphin left in the World!

Only 43 Maui's Dolphin left in the World!

Why this is important

“As citizens from around the world we are horrified that
Maui’s Dolphin could vanish from the face of the earth, we urge you to establish and enforce an immediate, permanent ban on deadly gillnet fishing in New Zealand. As there are only 43 Maui’s left, we call on you to do all you can to save this beautiful species from extinction before it’s too late.”

More information:

Maui’s are known as Hobbits of the sea, they are diminutive aquatic mammals that look like mini‐dolphins ‐‐ and there’s only 43 of them left! But if we act fast, we can still stop this beautiful species from vanishing forever.

They’re dying because they get trapped in “gillnets” and drown, also they are caught by Commercial fishers as by catch. But New Zealand government refuses to save these iconic dolphins.

Together, we can tip the decision in favour of the Maui’s. Let’s show these Ministers that the people of the world care. Sign this urgent petition and share it with everyone.

China’s Appetite Pushes Fisheries to the Brink

JOAL, Senegal — Once upon a time, the seas teemed with mackerel, squid and sardines, and life was good. But now, on opposite sides of the globe, sun-creased fishermen lament as they reel in their nearly empty nets.

“Your net would be so full of fish, you could barely heave it onto the boat,” said Mamadou So, 52, a fisherman in Senegal, gesturing to the meager assortment of tiny fish flapping in his wooden canoe.

A world away in eastern China, Zhu Delong, 75, also shook his head as his net dredged up a disappointing array of pinkie-size shrimp and fledgling yellow croakers. “When I was a kid, you could cast a line out your back door and hook huge yellow croakers,” he said. “Now the sea is empty.”

Overfishing is depleting oceans across the globe, with 90 percent of the world’s fisheries fully exploited or facing collapse, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. From Russian king crab fishermen in the west Bering Sea to Mexican ships that poach red snapper off the coast of Florida, unsustainable fishing practices threaten the well-being of millions of people in the developing world who depend on the sea for income and food, experts say.

Continue reading the main story

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But China, with its enormous population, growing wealth to buy seafood and the world’s largest fleet of deep-sea fishing vessels, is having an outsize impact on the globe’s oceans.

Having depleted the seas close to home, Chinese fishermen are sailing farther to exploit the waters of other countries, their journeys often subsidized by a government more concerned with domestic unemployment and food security than the health of the world’s oceans and the countries that depend on them.

Increasingly, China’s growing armada of distant-water fishing vessels is heading to the waters of West Africa, drawn by corruption and weak enforcement by local governments. West Africa, experts say, now provides the vast majority of the fish caught by China’s distant-water fleet. And by some estimates, as many as two-thirds of those boats engage in fishing that contravenes international or national laws.

China’s distant-water fishing fleet has grown to nearly 2,600 vessels (the United States has fewer than one-tenth as many), with 400 boats coming into service between 2014 and 2016 alone. Most of the Chinese ships are so large that they scoop up as many fish in one week as Senegalese boats catch in a year, costing West African economies $2 billion a year, according to a new study published by the journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

Continue reading the main story

Photo

Part of China’s enormous fishing fleet at the harbor in Zhejiang, China. CreditGilles Sabrie for The New York Times

Many of the Chinese boat owners rely on government money to build vessels and fuel their journeys to Senegal, a monthlong trip from crowded ports in China. Over all, government subsidies to the fishing industry reached nearly $22 billion between 2011 and 2015, nearly triple the amount spent during the previous four years, according to Zhang Hongzhou, a research fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

That figure, he said, does not include the tens of millions in subsidies and tax breaks that coastal Chinese cities and provinces provide to support local fishing companies.

According to one study by Greenpeace, subsidies for some Chinese fishing companies amount to a significant portion of their income. For one large state-owned company, CNFC Overseas Fisheries, the $12 million diesel subsidy it received last year made the difference between profit and loss, according to a corporate filing.

“Chinese fleets are all over the world now, and without these subsidies, the industry just wouldn’t be sustainable,” said Li Shuo, a global policy adviser at Greenpeace East Asia. “For Senegal and other countries of West Africa, the impact has been devastating.”

In Senegal, an impoverished nation of 14 million, fishing stocks are plummeting. Local fishermen working out of hand-hewn canoes compete with megatrawlers whose mile-long nets sweep up virtually every living thing. Most of the fish they catch is sent abroad, with a lot ending up as fishmeal fodder for chickens and pigs in the United States and Europe.

The sea’s diminishing returns mean plummeting incomes for fishermen and higher food prices for Senegalese citizens, most of whom depend on fish as their primary source of protein.

“We are facing an unprecedented crisis,” said Alassane Samba, a former director of Senegal’s oceanic research institute. “If things keep going the way they are, people will have to eat jellyfish to survive.”

When it comes to global fishing operations, China is the indisputable king of the sea. It is the world’s biggest seafood exporter, and its population accounts for more than a third of all fish consumption worldwide, a figure growing by 6 percent a year.

Buyers and sellers at Zhoushan fish market. China has depleted the seas close to home. CreditGilles Sabrie for The New York Times

The nation’s fishing industry employs more than 14 million people, up from five million in 1979, with 30 million others relying on fish for their livelihood.

“The truth is, traditional fishing grounds in Chinese waters exist in name only,” said Mr. Zhang of Nanyang University. “For China’s leaders, ensuring a steady supply of aquatic products is not just about good economics but social stability and political legitimacy.”

But as they press toward other countries, Chinese fishermen have become entangled in a growing number of maritime disputes.

Indonesia has impounded scores of Chinese boats caught poaching in its waters, and in March last year, the Argentine authorities sank a Chinese vessel that tried to ram a coast guard boat. Violent clashes between Chinese fishermen and the South Korean authorities have left a half-dozen people dead.

For Beijing, the nation’s fleet of fishing vessels has helped assert its territorial ambitions in the South China Sea. In Hainan Province, the government encourages boat owners to fish in and around the Spratlys, the archipelago claimed by the Philippines, and the Paracel Islands, which Vietnam considers its own.