It’s been said that fisherman and whalers of the past have caused population downturns in a variety of animals by being ‘overkill’. Certain species, as a result, are now protected and can’t be overfished or killed in great numbers. Some of them can’t be killed at all. And yet, many of those populations are not recovering.
The reasons are as clear as coral. The world no longer uses coral as a building material, no longer harvests it from the sea. But a variety of causes – unseasonable temperatures, water pollution, climate change – are combining to kill coral. Other ocean wildlife is being harmed in much the same way.
Take the growing shortage of blue crabs in Chesapeake Bay. Some say that over harvesting oysters in the area lead to an oyster shortage, which in turn led to over harvesting of the crabs which can only be combated with harvesting limits and natural re-population. Others say the recent extensive development along the coast has destroyed and poisoned the crab’s natural habitat, and that harvesting controls alone are not sufficient to bring the population back.
While it is telling that the original oyster population never recovered despite such controls, fisherman denying responsibility for the shortages will not solve anything. Those who rely on the crabs for their way of life are the ones with the ultimate responsibility to preserve them. As the water in certain areas was poisoned by runoff from development, why wasn’t anything done? Why weren’t letters written, city councils addressed, government bodies lobbied, all in an attempt to protect the bay from destructive development? Why isn’t anything being done now?
Of course, I’m not doing anything either. I’m certainly not championing the cause of further protection. But then, it’s not my livelihood. It’s not the way I want to live. Without blue crab, I’ll survive just fine.