NaturalNews‘ editor Mike Adams interviewed well-known marine biologist Boris Worm on almost everything one can think of when it comes to the ecological threats to our oceans: from overfishing and aquaculture to the effects of climate change and pollution on the marine environment and the enormous amounts of trash floating on ocean surfaces. But it’s not all doom and gloom: Worm also talks about organisations that for example work on saving sharks or actions consumers can take to save our ocenas, like using seafood choice cards in the US; he also mentions a range of good websites such as Marine Photobank or Seafood Choices Alliance. And all that on top of many links the interview transcript provides. Another good job by Mike Adams!
Interview with Dr. Boris Worm, Marine Biologist, on Overfishing, Aquatic Ecosystems, Aquaculture Farming and More
The following is a transcription of an exclusive interview with Dr. Boris Worm, Professor of Marine Biology at the Dalhousie University in Halifax, Novascotia. He’s the author of the widely-read scientific paper entitled Author of: Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services (Science 3 November 2006: Vol. 314. no. 5800, pp. 787 – 790)
See NaturalNews’ previous story containing the highlights of Dr. Boris Worm’s important interview: http://www.naturalnews.com/025818.html
The original audio recording of this interview is available for download here: http://www.naturalnews.com/Index-Po…
Mike: Hello and welcome everyone. This is Mike Adams, the Editor of NaturalNews.com, joined today by Dr. Boris Worm who’s a Professor of Marine Biology at the Dow-Hauser University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He’s the author of some very important, well-publicized papers talking about the delicacy of the web of life in the marine environment, and he joins us today to talk about that issue and maybe some things that we can do to help protect marine life. Thanks for joining us today Dr. Boris Worm; it’s great to have you on. Can you give our listeners a bit of a background of your work and your training?
Dr. Worm: Sure, I’m a marine biologist. I studied Marine Biology and Biologic Oceanography back in Germany where I’m from originally, and about 10 years ago, I moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia where I still work today. I started being interested in ecology – so how the things in the ocean relate to the environment and to each other. About six, seven years into my studies I started to understand that you cannot really do this anymore without factoring humans in and the effects we’re having on the ecosystems and on species in the marine realm.
My work more of became focusing on the impacts we’re having on ocean species and their supporting ecosystems, and that’s mostly what I’m doing today. I’m dealing with a range of impact – we’re looking at fishing first and foremost, but also at the effects of changes in climate. I’ve done a lot of work on pollution as well and to some extent how these different factors interrelate and interact.
Mike: What’s your overall “ah-ha” moment been in all of this? I mean was there a moment where you said, “Wow, people are greatly underestimating the intricacies and the complexities of marine biology?” Or what was that like for you?
Dr. Worm: Well there were several “ah-ha” moments. One was, there was a paper, which came out in 1997. It was called Human Domination of the Earth’s Ecosystem… And they argued that now we’re dominating a lot of the processes that shape ecosystems and life on Earth: for example, the fixation of nitrogen and the removal of biomass through forestry and agriculture and fishing and so on and a variety of other processes. And these have been running for a long time naturally, but now our impact is dominating these processes.
Then there were several others, I recall. When I was doing some exponential work in the Baltic Sea, I was doing a lot of diving and snorkeling, and I’ve seen lots of little critters. At some point, I just started wondering where all the big fish are and why I never ever see anything that’s larger than about a few inches really. That was all that was there.
I started researching and getting more interested in the fate of large mean predators, which was one of the big bodies of work I did with Ransom Myers at the University where we asked the question, “How much of those large predators have been left?” Our research established that the large proportion of these creatures… like tuna, billfish, shark – even large cod, halibut and species like that – have declined by up to 90% in many areas and that really showed me how profound our impact had been – not just in some areas, but really all of them.
Mike: Wow and yet during all of this, it seems that the people who are engaged in fishing have always said, “Oh, don’t worry; they’re plenty of fish in the ocean.” Right?
Dr. Worm: Well it’s interesting – this goes back almost a 150 years now to some famous remarks by Thomas Huxley who stated that in effect the… fisheries in the ocean is… inexhaustible. We can make a dent into them, but we cannot really deplete them to any serious….
That motion was countered by a number of other authors who said, “Well, it’s not even something that’s a theoretical possibility. It’s already happening. We’re already depleting a lot of those fisheries particularly ground fisheries.” This is like haddock and cod and so on – even at that time people were aware of it.
Fishermen (know) as well (as) scientists. So I think there have always been a more optimistic and a more pessimistic view, and I think what we’re trying to do today is try to reconcile these different views and find out where things really are. And I think there’s a broad consensus now that fisheries worldwide are in trouble.
There are a lot of stresses on marine ecosystems, but there’s also some success stories where people have managed to reduce our impact, and those efforts have been paying off greatly. I think it’s important to still see both sides of the coin. It’s not all hopeless. The situation is dire, but also we have some ways of fixing it, which is important.
Mike: Isn’t it your research, by the way, that has been widely quoted as predicting a collapse of fishing stocks in 50 years if we don’t make these changes?
Dr. Worm: That’s correct, yes, that’s one of our… in 2006 in science we looked at loss of species from ocean ecosystems and the rate at which that was occurring. What we saw was that when you look at all the world’s fisheries and the catches they provide, there was a trend that more and more of these fisheries were declining greatly in their catches – about 90% or more.
By 2003 when I had heard that series ended about 29% of fisheries – so almost one-third had gotten to a point where they had declined or their catches had declined more than 90% below the historical maximum, and we interpreted this as a sign that those fisheries had, in fact, collapsed.
There was a great debate about the correct definition of collapse, but the reality was that those catches were declining. And the world catch – the cumulative world catch – would be able to get from the ocean despite us trying harder and harder to fish it… we’re catching less and less since about 10 years or so ago.
There’s a broad consensus that ocean ecosystems have reached a limit where we’re taking too much out and at the same time we’re putting too much of our waste and garbage products in and that’s not helping either. It has to be a new balance where we’re only taking out as much as can… as grows back sustainably year after year. And we’re only putting as much in with regard to waste products as can be absorbed by those ecosystems and those really have to go together.
Mike: How much do you think of the collapse in let’s say marine ecology globally is due to chemical pollution or say ocean acidification due to CO2 emissions versus just over-fishing?
Dr. Worm: Just to be clear,… the trend is not positive with seeing more and more fisheries being in trouble year after year. There’s still a lot of life out there…
Mike: Yeah, that’s reassuring.
Dr. Worm: That I would like to get across – but why are we seeing problems, you’re asking? Well I think most people would agree that fishing is probably the largest single impact. It has been around for the longest time. In coastal areas, we see signs of over-fishing hundreds of years back. Those are spreading out from coastal areas into Continental Shelf, and open ocean areas now even into the deep sea.
A major problem we have to get under control; then, there’s climate change. You mentioned ocean acidification. We don’t see massive impact yet with the exception of the bleaching of coral reefs due to temperature extremes in the tropics that haven’t been seen before, but of course, we know that those impacts are only going to accelerate and intensify no matter what we do.
That’s something we’re concerned about for the immediate future, but right now, I think most of the problems we’re seeing are related to fisheries. If you look at the global ocean… if you look at coastal areas, you see a lot of pollution impacts and stuff, particularly those of nitrification, which is the run off of nutrients through agriculture and sewage and so on, which has caused some coastal ecosystems to be greatly damaged and even collapsing in some cases.
Mike: Isn’t there pressure on the fishing industries then as the costal – more of the coastal fisheries – collapse or are stressed; isn’t there a tendency for them to just move farther offshore and explore more pristine ocean waters and start plundering those? Is that something that’s real?
Dr. Worm: Yeah, well that’s absolutely true. That’s the historic trend and the only modification to your statement I would make is that this has already happened. We have already expanded fishing operations all around the globe, and there’s no ocean that has never been fished. And our human impact has really stretched to every little corner; even places in the Antarctica or very, very remote areas in the eastern Pacific have been fished and have been impacted a great deal.
Particularly, with the removal of large marine predators such as sharks, tuna, blowfish and so on, and just to give you an example, I’m particularly concerned right now about the state of sharks because sharks are now the most vulnerable to fishing. They’re very slow going. They mature at about the age of humans – in some cases, quite a bit later than humans, meaning they have to grow up for a long time and survive in order to reproduce. If they reproduce, they’re only having a few pups.
They’re not producing millions of eggs like other fish. They’re only producing a few pups. Again, not unlike some mammals, and there haven’t been very many traditional shark fisheries. In fact, a lot of indigenous societies have revered sharks and see(n) them as mystic animals and specifically not targeted them, which (is) a wise decision because we know now that those creatures have a large impact on ecosystems. And they’re an important component of those ecosystems, and they’re hard to replace – like they’re gone and they’re slow to grow back. Well, since we’ve lost some of that reverence, sharks have been exploited relentlessly, particularly in the last 10 years for their fins, which is a practice called “shark finning” where the fins are cut off and the shark is thrown back often alive.
Then it’s left to die slowly from drowning or starvation and that practice has grown like a wildfire around the world. There are a lot of efforts to stop it because people are seeing the traditional shark populations… much faster than for almost anything else in the oceans now, and the implications are quite staggering. That’s something I’m really concerned about and that needs to be stopped on a global scale really.
Mike: Yeah, sharks have been vilified through popular culture for so long that I think people are slow to accept the idea that this predator is very, very important to the long-term survivability of the ecosystem.
Dr. Worm: Yes and I see a recent culture shift where sharks are increasingly seen as the victims they are, not as the perpetrator of crimes. Somebody has calculated for every human that’s injured by a shark, tens of millions of sharks annually are killed in return. The boundary is really going the other way.
Mike: Is there any web site or non-profit group that you can share that focuses on protecting sharks?
Dr. Worm: Oh, there are a number of them. For example in Europe there’s the so-called Shark Alliance that you can just Google “Shark Alliance” on the Web, and there’s been tremendous work at protecting sharks. In France there’s a small NGO, “Longitude 181.com,” or “.org” I guess that has managed to protect sharks in French Polynesia, which is a very large portion of the Eastern Pacific, where sharks are still plentiful and where shark fisheries just recently tried to move in. And they’ve managed to stop that.
Then Oceania or the Ocean Conservancy here in North America is doing a lot for shark conservation….So a lot of NGOs are keying into the fact that sharks may be one of the most pressing, most rapidly declining conservation concerns in the oceans right now.
Mike: What about the Antarctic that you mentioned earlier? I wanted to ask you. I had a question about some of the harvesting going on there because there has been some debate about that. What species, if any, are threatened by fishing there? Or is this fishing there… is the biggest threat there then the threat to the food supply of the mammals there, or is it more of an environmental concern?
Dr. Worm: Well first and foremost of course the Antarctic ecosystem has been changed greatly by the removal of large whales. Hundreds of thousands of whales have been taken from that ecosystem, and… the blue whale are very, very slow to come back. Apart from that, what goes on today is there’s long-arm fishing going on for a species that’s called “Patagonia Tooth Fish.” It’s marketed in North America as Chilean Sea Bass. That species is also, like most species that far south, in the Arctic Ocean. Arctic waters must be very slow growing as well and slow to replenish, so there’s a large illegal fishery going on for them.
For that reason, there have been efforts to make consumers aware that this is not just a thing to be caught…. They should refrain from eating it, and there are these consumer choice cards. Now, for example, at the Monterey Bay… if you Google seafood guides you would get a number of products that tell you which fish is – such as this Chilean Sea Bass … Fish are unsustainable.
This is one of my good choices that will manage the plentiful, like Alaskan Salmon for example, and can be eaten so to speak with a good conscious. I use those seafood cards all the time, and I find it a really wonderful tool to educate myself and educate others when you’re in a restaurant or when you’re ordering seafood at the counter.
Mike: It’s called Chilean Sea Bass, but it’s not from anywhere near Chile?
Dr. Worm: It does occur south of Chile and in the Antarctic water so yeah, but it’s a pure marketing name. It’s the same – the orange roughy, … it was supposed to be what they call Fly Med and that didn’t go over so well with the marketing folks. They called it Orange Roughy and other species that many people are concerned about because again it’s slow growing, late maturing. It’s older than your grandmother is.
It grows up to 130 years, believe, and may only mature at age 30 or 40, so it’s very, very slow to replenish. It lives in the deep sea, and it’s only recently been fished – again marketed very successfully in North America as Orange Roughy. And it’s probably a species you should not eat because it’s not a sustainable fish… It’s damaging to the ecosystem.
Mike: Wow so that’s just like canola oil used to be rapeseed oil.
Dr. Worm: Um-hum, yeah well these marketing names are really interesting, and it can be confusing for the consumer. For example, Snapper can be a large variety of things, not just the red Snapper from the Gulf of Mexico, but there’s (a) species of rockfish that are called Snapper. It’s very confusing at times, so it’s a good idea to carry these seafood cards around; be really discerning as a consumer and ask in the restaurant what this is really…
Is this an Atlantic salmon or Alaska salmon – big difference there? Is it fun; is it wild to really demand to know these things? I know a European Union for example, now every fish has to be labeled by its proper name, it’s scientific name, and also tested where it comes from, which ocean area and also whether it’s farmed or wild.
There’s things that’s like the idea. We would never buy generic meat and not know where this cow or pig or whatever it is…. and no idea where it comes from: China or whether it comes from the US. We would demand knowing.
Mike: In the United States that distinction is often not made. I mean there’s no such… there are no such labeling requirements.
Dr. Worm: Not yet, so I think it’s up to consumers to demand these things, yeah. I know that there are organizations that are pressing for such labeling because it’s the first perquisite for making informed choices, but there are other efforts as well. For example, there’s a… that certifies certain fisheries as sustainable, so they basically do the work for you.
They put a stamp of approval on it, and it’s a good organization. Wildlife Fund is co-founding it, and they’re going through a lot of deep end trying to certify fisheries as sustainable, making sure that they’re not exhausting their supply and not damaging the ecosystem and so on.
Mike: What’s the name of that group again please?
Dr. Worm: It’s the Marine Stewardship Council, www.MSC.org, yeah. If you see a fish for example Alaskan Taylor Fish or Alaskan Salmon certified by MSC, you know it’s a good choice.
Mike: Let me ask you a question a little lower down the food chain here because this has been a debate that I’ve been involved with, and I’d like your opinion on it. What about the krill harvesting out of the Antarctic, which is harvested both for nutritional supplements and sometimes for animal feed products – or even agricultural product? Taking it out of specific feeding areas might be pressure on certain mammals? What’s your take on all that?
Dr. Worm: Oh, there’s no doubt that taking some of those foundation species that basically form the base of the food chain can be very risky. I know there was a big interest in fishing krill in the 1970s from the Antarctic, …and there has been a lot of concern about it for that very reason. That fishery never quite developed at the scale it was envisioned, and I know there’s renewed interest in this and efforts to revive such krill fisheries. And I think it’s not a good idea because it began there.
They form the basis for so many other animals, and recent research has shown that warming to climate change at the same time (as) fish(ing) them will drive them down even further and compromise the entire ecosystem. I believe a lot of people, they worry about it, and I hope there’s enough opposition to limit those fisheries.
Mike: Wouldn’t that also make it more difficult for whales to recover then, if their food source such as krill is struggling? Then that makes it more difficult for larger mammals to repopulate. Is that a reasonable assumption?
Dr. Worm: Yeah, yeah definitely, but for example penguins there’s good evidence that recent declines in the number of penguins – various species around Antarctica – is linked to the diminishing supply of krill. So far mostly from the warming trend, but if fishery comes on top of that, that could accelerate those declines. Again, I don’t think it’s a good idea.
Mike: Let me change the subject and ask you about the – I don’t know if this is a myth or not. This is why I want to ask you this, but about this huge floating trash piles in the Pacific and all of these little pieces of plastic that pollute the Pacific Ocean. I’m sure you’ve looked at this too, so what’s your take on it? First of all, is it true that there’s a huge collection of floating garbage, and if so, how might that threaten the marine ecosystem there?
Dr. Worm: It’s absolutely true; yeah, there’s no doubt that there’s millions and millions of tons of trash in the oceans and accumulating in some of these ocean dryers, which are basically these big whirlpools where the water’s trapped. It’s circulating in a huge current round and round, and it traps this debris and sort of accumulates there. It’s everywhere, but there it becomes very visible because it can’t escape that particular dryer very easily unless it breaks up or it sinks down to the bottom.
There’s no doubt that the amount of trash in the ocean is a major contributor to mortality in mammals for example and fishes and sea birds. The albatross is an example that’s often found dead with their stomachs just filled with things like lighters or toothbrushes or plastic capsules that contain liquids that glow in the dark in order to attract fish to fishing hooks in the dark and so on.
There’s a huge amount of that plastic trash, and even if it breaks up, research has shown that it breaks up into tiny pieces that then float around and get taken up by a filtering… that mistake it for plankton and they try to feed on. What the full effects are of this plastic on the ecosystem few people have looked at that, but there’s no doubt that it contributes to mortality of hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of animals every year.
Again a lot of people are concerned about these efforts to do beach cleanups every year and to limit the amount of garbage that’s put in the ocean, for example, from ships and so on. Again, everybody here, like the consumer choices, everybody can help to limit the amount of trash that’s put into ecosystems. Avoid trash and avoid dumping it near the sea and so on. We can all make our voices heard that we don’t think that it’s a good idea that (this) choice continue(s).
Mike: Do cruise ships still contribute to that? I mean I know that there are regulations that they’re supposed to follow, and probably all the US cruise lines follow that. But I’m wondering maybe there are some other international or I don’t know maybe some Asian cruise lines or something that don’t. Are there cruise ships dumping trash into the ocean?
Dr. Worm: Well, I believe international shipping regulations allow any vessel to dump kitchen garbage, which is probably okay. This would include food wastes. It’s not allowed to dump plastics. It’s allowed to dump metal as far as I know, so empty cans and so on.
When people now – when they go to the deep sea and places that nobody has ever filmed or photographed, a lot of the things they observe there is not the animals that live there but empty Coca-Cola and beer cans, which is a legal practice, and of course, they rot very, very slowly there. The water is only two degrees Celsius around the freezing point. And it’s dark all year, and it’s a very slow moving ancient environment, and it’s kind of disconcerting to know that it’s… with our trash.
Mike: Yeah, so where are all the plastics coming from – just from coastal pollution?
Dr. Worm: Well until even 10 years ago I saw it was even… it was legal for ships to dump their garbage overboard – all of it including plastic. I don’t know when that changed, and I’ve heard that for example in military ships it’s still common practice because they’re often exempt from this rule so they don’t care.
Then certainly a lot of fishing vessels don’t… there’s very little enforcement on th(ese) rules. Nobody checks when you come into a harbor whether you have enough fuel garbage onboard or whether you have any garbage onboard or whether, in fact, it has mysteriously disappeared on your ocean voyage.
Mike: Anybody can just dump anything basically. Let me ask you about aqua culture farming versus just fishing. I’ve actually interviewed a lot of companies in Hawaii for example – on the coast of Hawaii who are running aqua culture farms. What’s your take on aqua culture versus wild crafting of fish?
Dr. Worm: Well, first and foremost I think it’s important to make clear that… cannot replace wild fisheries. First of all, a lot of aqua culture depends on fish products to feed farm fish, and even where they don’t, some aqua culture – shrimp aqua culture for example… tuna aqua culture or sea lancing in the Mediterranean… very heavily so and the conversion ratio is not very good.
It depends on the species, but for some I think they got it down to two – three: one so that means for one pound of salmon you’re getting out, you’re putting in, two – three pounds of Blanton, herring or mackerel. In a sense it’s a, to me, a little bit of a waste of wild fish because you could eat those herring and mackerel, but maybe they’re not as fetching as higher priced. So there’s an economic incentive to turn them into salmon even if it’s at a loss of protein. For tuna even it’s a lot worse.
The conversion ratio of the small fish that are sent to tuna say in the Mediterranean (to fatten them up and then make them more valuable and they get sold) is about ten to one – for ten pounds of fish put in, one pound of tuna is being produced. That’s not a solution and not more environmentally friendly than eating the fish in the first place.
Then there’s… aqua culture that are land-based, that are fed a vegetable diet – character example is Tilapia and that – when no little fish goes in. That’s probably a better choice, and the seafood choice cards I mentioned, they often distinguish between those two forms of agriculture in this day of support and the many friendly forms for example Tilapia. And they do not support for example salmon and shrimp aqua culture.
Mike: Tilapia aqua culture can be run on a plant-based diet primarily?
Dr. Worm: Um-hum, um-hum, yes, yeah.
Mike: What about – I know a company that grows mussels, and they don’t feed them any fish. They just feed them – I think they let them feed phytoplankton.
Dr. Worm: Yes, they feed by themselves, and mussels are usually seen as a sustainable choice as something that’s not taking from the marine ecosystem. It’s replacing the wide harvest of mussels or shellfish, which can be very destr—… For example, scallop dredging is one of the most destructive forms of harvesting.
It just dredges up the sea floor and takes everything in its wake. Whereas the aqua culture of scallops or the aqua culture of other shellfish – mussels or other bivalves is a good alternative to that.
Mike: That’s a good rule of thumb that you just mentioned here that when aqua culture involves feeding fish other fish, then it’s very wasteful. It has a lot of overhead, but…
Dr. Worm: Well, some people say it’s the equivalent of shooting rabbits and squirrels and deer and then feeding them to lions in pens and feeding the lions. To basically have carnivore(s) of fish – fish that eat other fish – in aqua culture and then feed them fish that you have to catch in the wild in the first place doesn’t seem a particularly good idea.
There’s the health problem to this too because you are, with the fish, extracting from the wild; they’re carrying pollutants, heavy metals, organo-chloritin, and so on. As you’re feeding them to other fish, you’re moving up the food chain, but you’re basically concentrating those pollutants in the final product. There have been quite a few concerns about high level pollutants in farmed fish particularly farmed salmon and also shrimp.
Mike: All right, yeah, yeah we’ve seen a lot of those reports in salmon especially. Now you hinted earlier that one of the best things a consumer can do is to just make an informed choice when they’re buying fish or ordering fish. Can you add anything to that on the action list here – like what can people do right now to make a difference?
Dr. Worm: Well, definitely your seafood choice is number one. Then when you’re on the ocean or near the ocean to not pollute, to tread lightly, and to not take anything. If you like to fish recreational, consider doing “catch and release” rather than taking things. Only try to fish species that are not endangered. Try to eat species that are not endangered. Speak out against unsustainable practices such as the shark finning I mentioned earlier.
People’s voices are heard. For example, the success story I described in French Polynesia where shark fishing has been banned was due to a petition that was signed I think by about 40,000 people that said we don’t want this to happen, and then the government decided to ban it.
It was as simple as that, so I think people’s voice(s) can really carry a long way, and if you feel passionate about something and you think something should not go on or maybe if you feel something is done right for once, you should let decision-makers know. I think that’ll have an effect.
Mike: That’s great information. I’m glad you mentioned that and are there any web sites that you’d like to mention too? I mean you already mentioned a few about the sharks, but are there others that you think are good sites to support?
Dr. Worm: Let’s see – one I really like if you’re interested in ocean conservation and maybe you’re thinking about publishing something on this topic or so, go to a photo site… www.MarinePhotoBank.org, and it’s for free. You have to sign on, but you don’t have to pay anything. You can download pictures for example on shark finning.
You can download beautiful imagery on ocean life, but also how it’s harmed by various practices that you can inform yourself, and the photographer(s) there, they give you information on where exactly this picture was taken, what was happening behind the scenes and so on. I think that’s a really good educational source. I really like the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s web site.
I think if you type in www.SeafoodChoice.org (one word), you’ll land there, and they have done a great, great effort to not just put out these seafood choice cards that you can carry around in your wallet, but also you learn a lot by clicking on particular species that you like to eat.
Maybe you like to eat swordfish so you click on swordfish, and you learn where it’s fished, how its fished, what the problem is and you will learn that particular fisheries – Hawaiian swordfish I believe are doing better than others, Atlantic swordfish for example. You can make choices there again, and you’ll just get more knowledgeable and… know more (on) what’s going on.
Then finally the… community have just excellent web sites – Oceania for example: www.Oceania.org. You can just learn so much and educate yourself and become involved too. They have a lot of petitions running where they lobby politicians to change destructive practices and to do a better job in ocean management.
You can suggest things yourself or sign on to those petitions if you feel so inclined, and I think all of these things are making a real difference. The Web’s been enabling us to learn about these things. There’s nothing stopping us from becoming involved. It’s very easy for us to, with a mouse click, sign on to a petition and potentially make a difference.
Mike: That’s all great information, and I really have enjoyed this interview because you have a very thoughtful approach to things. I have one or maybe two more questions. They are – number one, you must have received a lot of criticism about the research you mentioned that was published in 2006. So my first question is how do you deal with that, or how do you find confidence in your own conclusions amid all that criticism?
Dr. Worm: Well what we did was we repl(ied) to a lot of those criticisms in Science, the magazine by those… that published and we just took every single criticism and when somebody just said this is bad science, I just ignore(d) it.
That’s not a very specific statement, but if somebody said, “I think that measurement is wrong because of this and I think you should use this measurement instead,” what we did in our reply is we just used the other measurement and saw whether it makes a difference. As it turns out, it doesn’t make a difference. So however you look at it, you’re getting a very similar picture of the state of the ocean, and there’s really no wriggling around that things are in trouble.
It’s not getting better on a global scale. It’s getting better in some regions, and there was a point I took from the criticisms that I thought was important that we cannot only look at sailors, of which there are many, we also need to look at the success stories and that people have been able to implement sound management practices and make a real difference. That has happened in some areas, and we can learn from that and implement it more widely.
I tell you one interesting thing that came out of all of these criticisms is that these people that criticize heavily both in lecture and in the media – his name is Ray Hillborn – he and I teamed up in the end. We have to know each other, and we discovered that if we actually started to talk to each other, we’re not that far apart in what we think is going on. And we compiled a working group of ecologists, but also fishery scientists and people on both sides of the debate.
We’ve been working over the last three years together to find out where things really are and to chart the common ground of what we can really say with confidence. What we can all sign onto, and it turns out it’s not that far from what we wrote in 2006, but it also again incorporates more information on recovery and rebuilding the fisheries. And it’s more practice, and it’s not doom and gloom, and we can really make a difference.
We know how to fix this, and we can’t get paralyzed by the numbers. So I think that’s an important add-on piece that will probably be published later this year where we’ll try to get that message across.
Mike: Oh that was my last question for you was – what can we expect to see from you in the near future, and you sort of hinted at it up there? Do you care to share any more details on that?
Dr. Worm: Well, it’s just a synthetic paper that will be published where we will actually chart a way towards rebuilding fisheries and correcting some of the mistakes that have been done in the past. That’s at this point all I can say about it. But then other than that I’m working quite a bit on sharks, and as I’ve said I’m really concerned about this, really interested in what has happened lately.
We usually put out some work on the ecosystem and the effect of large predators, so what actually happens when you remove those large fish, mammals, turtles, sharks and so on from the ecosystem and how it changes. I’m continually interested in that. Finally, I’m also working on the effect of climate change and trying to understand more how that will add on to the stresses on the ecosystem and how we can make those ecosystems and fisheries in particular more robust so they can absorb and adapt to these stresses.
I meantime – and again I find if they give marine life half a chance to recover, it will, and it’s (a) fairly resilient system even though it has absorbed lots of shocks and disasters and stresses in the past. I’m quite hopeful that if we do the right thing we can see it through, and we’ll continue to enjoy it for its beauty and all the benefits it provides.
Mike: There’s a growing group of people in America especially who deny that there’s any climate change taking place or deny global warming. I was just wondering if you’ve any comments on that?
Dr. Worm: Well the comments I have is that the new administration has just injected a huge amount of funding at this line of research and biological research and particularly in the National Ocean Atmospheric Administration, which studies both the effect of fishing and the climate. Whatever mistakes there have been in the past, I think that’s corrected now, so I think we should look forward and take confidence in that as the new president has said… got restored to its rightful place.
I think I mean beyond the rhetoric I really think that scientists ha(ve) an incredibly important role in a very complex and rapidly changing world to just tell us what the consequences of our action and inactions are and the choices we face and that there’s no inevitability. There are choices we make, and we better make them consciously, with all the scientific information attached to them that we could gather and then make the best informed decision.
I believe when we actually have that information on the tape and scientists are reaching out to make it known, then we often do reach the right decision, and we can be smart about how we handle our impact. Again, I think science plays a very important role to play there, but every day people have too because in the end it (is) all those little individual choices and decisions that then make the greater whole. I think everybody can definitely improve the situation probably more so than we think.
Mike: Well thank you for taking this mission on – taking on this task of educating people and getting to the real science of this. We need more people like you in our world in putting this information out there. I want to thank you for taking this time to join us.
Dr. Worm: Thanks and it was a pleasure to talk to you, good luck and all the best to your readers and listeners.
Mike: All right, you too – Dr. Boris Worm, everybody. We’ve been talking to the Professor of Marine Biology at the Dow-Hawse University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Thanks for joining us today.
Mike: Hi this is Mike Adams here again at the conclusion of this interview. I just wanted to add an important note. I don’t know about you, but I was really inspired by this interview – this information. I found that I was learning a tremendous amount about the importance of the marine ecosystem for the future of sustainable life on our planet.
I’ve spent a lot of time talking about protecting trees and protecting soil and protecting animals and of course, fellow human beings, but I haven’t talked much in the past about the importance of protecting the marine ecosystems on our planet. I mean sure we’ve done articles about the dead zones in the oceans and the mercury contamination of fish and so on, but this interview with Dr. Boris Worm really got me thinking that I need to focus more – more energy, more resources, more time on looking at the ocean.
The marine environment is crucial to the future of life on our planet – on the entire planet. You can’t even have sustainable life on land if your oceans are dead, so you have to support ocean life if you want to have sustainable human life on land as well. I have an announcement to make on this. I’ve decided to donate $5,000 worth of advertising space on www.NaturalNews.com to the Marine Conservancy Groups that were mentioned here by Dr. Boris Worm.
To any of the groups mentioned here such as Oceania, Green Peace, Shark Alliance, or Monterey Bay Aquarium or any of the others that were mentioned here, if they want to apply to receive this free publicity, they can just contact us through our feedback form on www.NaturalNews.com.
We will schedule that to run, and we’ll be setting aside $5,000 worth of ad space for those groups specifically for this purpose to help publicize the important work of these groups to Natural News readers. I think it’s something that the readers of Natural News will really enjoy. It’s something that I know I fully endorse and support doing, and of course, it will help support these groups and all of the ocean life that they’re working to protect.
Thank you for listening. I hope you found this enjoyable and join us again as we continue to cover this topic in articles and future interviews right here on www.NaturalNews.com. This is Mike Adams, the Health Ranger – thanks for listening.
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