Title: THE RAPE OF THE OCEANS , By: Satchell, M., U.S. News & World Report, 00415537, 6/22/92, Vol. 112, Issue 24 Database: MasterFILE Premier Section: Cover story; Science & society THE RAPE OF THE OCEANS America's last frontier is seriously overfished, badly polluted, poorly managed and in deepening trouble With Capt. Joe Testaverde at the helm, the trawler Nina T slips into its Gloucester, Mass., mooring at sunset. Joe's father, Salvatore Testaverde, and his Sicilian father before him were Gloucester fishermen, and the family has trawled Northeastern waters for close to 80 years. This night seems a comforting continuum as the fish are unloaded and the crew members josh with dockside onlookers, exaggerating the size of the catch. The scene in this snug New England harbor is as timeless and reassuring as the tides -- and as deceptive as a roseate dawn. In bygone years, Joe Testaverde's father and grandfather would return to port with their boats packed from bilge to gunwale with haddock and flounder, and with jumbo codfish weighing 50 pounds or better. Sal Testaverde recalls pulling up 5,000 pounds of cod in a one-hour tow. Today, if he can find them, son Joe might haul in 2,000 pounds of middling-sized cod in eight hours of hard trawling. And he won't even waste time searching for flounder and haddock. The Nina T, more than likely, will return with hake, whiting, spiny dogfish or skate -- species despised in Sal Testaverde's day as ``trash'' fish. Shipped abroad or retailed in ethnic markets for about $1 a pound, they are the dominant and devalued currency of the Georges Bank, once the nation's richest fishing ground. The precipitous, perhaps irreversible decline of New England's groundfish is one of the major casualties of an unrelenting assault on the nation's coastal oceans. The principal problems are overfishing, burgeoning seaside development, loss of coastal wetlands and pollution of bay and estuary fish breeding grounds. Compounding these pressures is the profligate waste of hundreds of millions of pounds of edible ``bycatch'' fish. And a political consensus between fishing and federal bureaucrats to better manage the vast and valuable marine resources has yet to be reached. This looming disaster extends from the coastlines out to the 200-mile limit in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea. Together, they represent the country's last open frontier. These 2.2 million square miles contain about one fifth of the world's harvestable seafood; enormous populations of marine birds and mammals, and spectacular undersea reefs, banks and gardens teeming with life forms that have barely been studied. ``We have two choices -- conserve and develop a sustainable resource, or squander and destroy it,'' says Roger McManus, head of the Center for Marine Conservation, the only national environmental group devoted solely to the oceans' welfare. ``Our record so far is abysmal.'' Earth Summit. There is a growing belief among environmentalists that the world's overexploited and ailing oceans will replace tropical rain forests as the next global ecology concern. At the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro that wrapped up last week, participants pledged to try and 1
control overfishing, pollution and coastal development. But the agreement contained no bold new initiatives and few specific goals or enforcement mechanisms. Not surprisingly, amid the rancorous parley that saw the United States excoriated for its independent stance on global warming, forest protection and biodiversity, marine issues drew scant attention from the media or from official delegates. But elsewhere, the alarms are sounding -- especially in America. Front-line U.S. environmental groups like Greenpeace, the National Audubon Society and the World Wildlife Fund are following the lead of the Center for Marine Conservation and turning their attention to ocean biodiversity. Until recently, they paid little...
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