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Friday, April 7, 2017

Good morning,

I felt a little guilty about my pessimistic sarcasm in last week's issue about the Japanese slaughtering over 300 minke whales in defiance of a worldwide moratorium on whaling.

Despite these stumbles, the world must be heading toward greater environmental awareness and stewardship. There is too much information, too much science widely available for any country in the modern world to completely ignore the consequences of irresponsible actions.

Or so I thought. Then I read the story which I have excerpted for you below.

Thanks for reading,

Your Living Green editor

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Efforts to boost China's marine economy in recent decades, including offshore drilling and unsustainable fishing practices like trawling, has resulted in a dramatic depletion of its own fishing stock.

China has fished itself out of its own waters, so Chinese fishermen are now sticking their rods in other nations' seas.

The growth of China's middle class over the past 15 years or so has driven up demand for all sorts of luxury goods in the country. For example, there's been a growing interest in high-quality seafood—which comes at a most inopportune time.

But in order to sate its population's rising desire for nice pieces of fish--and to continue exporting seafood abroad to trading nations--the Middle Kingdom's fishing vessels have resorted to catch throughout the high seas (i.e., international waters) and, possibly through illegal practices, in other countries' coastal domains.

In 2016, a number of Chinese fishing vessels were shot at for fishing in other nations' exclusive economic zones, areas of water off countries' coastlines where those countries have sole rights to pursue economic activity. In March 2016, Argentinian patrol units sank the Chinese fishing boat Lu Yan Yuan Yu 010 as it attempted to flee into international waters after allegedly trawling illegally off the coast of the Argentinian city Puerto Madryn. Recently, in light of illegal Chinese vessels draining the supply of fish, Somali fishermen have turned to piracy. And in November 2016, members of the South Korean coast guard opened fire on two Chinese fishing vessels that had threatened to ram patrol boats in the Yellow Sea near Incheon--not a month after Chinese fishermen rammed and sank a South Korean speedboat in the same area.

Within China's own exclusive economic zone, the nation has lost 'one-half of its coastal wetlands, 57 percent of mangroves, and 80 percent of coral reefs, most of which are critical spawning, nursing, or feeding grounds for fish, according to a 2016 study undertaken by a team of international experts.

That's thanks to trawling, a practice in which fishermen drag long nets along the ocean floor and kill practically any living thing in their path. In addition to destroying coral reefs and the habitats necessary for healthy ocean wildlife populations, fishermen discard the bycatch, the sea creatures accidentally trapped in theirs nets. This unintended catch can include endangered species like sea turtles, as well as "trash fish," species of edible fish that many in China (and in other countries) do not want to eat.

Many nations have taken steps to impede bottom trawling, largely because it is a disaster for marine ecosystems. For example, Chile permanently banned this fishing method in 2015, while other countries like Indonesia have imposed limited bans.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) the world's commercial fish stocks that exist at biologically sustainable levels has declined from 90 percent in 1974 to 68.6 percent in 2013. In other words, nearly one-third of global commercial fish stocks are already being overfished.