September 23, 2013

NCR-10 [Fish]: “Tohum İzi Association” Earth and Sea

Olcay Bingöl from “Tohum İzi Association”

This paper on sustainable fisheries, marine reserves starts by referring to concepts such as agricultural production, farmers, global warming and ecological crisis. Please note that is not due to author’s confusion but a deliberate approach. For many years natural assets such as ground and underground water resources, seeds, land, sea, lakes, are considered by industrialized agriculture and the fishing industry as resources and with this regard they have come under the ownership of industrial capital.

However, for a substantial period of time as natural assets were perceived as resources, high quantity of production topped our heads and solution to all our problems were prescribed to growth, the terrors of climatic threat presented itself. This terrifying landscape simultaneously triggered a change in the perception of the world by ecologists. A number of attitudes began to proliferate arguing that ecology should not only be limited to environmentalism and that social aspects should also be considered. Therefore, poor communities greatly exposed to the effects of global warming such as farmers engaged in traditional production, traditional fishermen, coastal fishermen began to confide more and more in a liberation based on a structure that considers ecological cycles, principles of ecology and labour and respects traditional knowledge.

As he witnessed the plunder of land during the industrial revolution, Karl Marx asserted in Capital III: ‘the only possible freedom, is the regulations of mutual relations of common producers with nature in a rational manner.’ Daniel Tanuro also emphasis this issue in his book L’impossible capitalisme vert (The Futility of Green Capitalism) : ‘In fact, the ecological crisis we are exposed to is not a continuation of the past, on the contrary it is the work of a radical innovation. No society in history was inclined by a profit avarice that encouraged capitalists to accumulate more thereby constantly creating new needs in order to produce more and sell more….. The fact that this phenomenon referred to as the ecological crisis is a crisis of humanity’s historical relationship with its environment.’

Due to these changes of understanding and insight the United Nations and other international bodies merged on the idea that the only way to feed the world in a sustainable way and to rid the negative impacts of climate change is to support traditional/small producers that nurtures the environment and biodiversity. The ripples of this paradigm shift in the international arena were also felt in our country. This course of change was surely obtained with the stubbornness, persistence and the power of social struggle.

Witnesses of the bitter story of the sea
Seas are warming, glaciers are melting, direction of currents are changing and the sea level is steadily rising. The main dietary sources of marine life (plankton and krill) that reside in the bottom of the food chain as a whole have began to dissipate critically affected by temperature change. A major number of coral bleaching has occurred and was left to die. In 1998, 16 percent of the world corals were fatally damaged, reefs in South Asia and Indian Ocean lost half of its corals. The amount of waste created by modern fishing is colossal. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization 75% of planet’s main sea fishing areas are completely depleted or nearly depleted. Waste and rate of consumption in this area is very high. As an example, more than 90 percent of the fish caught in the nets of shrimp industry boats are thrown back into the sea. Each year, the number of death of whale or dolphin due to this activity is over 300 thousand. Around 100 thousand albatross die due to being caught to long fishing hooks; turtles, seals and sharks fall victim to random and inconsiderate fishing practices. In total, the amount of fish discarded in a year is estimated to be between 7 to 39 million tons. Many of these consist of small dead fish and non-commercial marine organisms discarded by fishing boats.

Another significant danger is that of bottom trawls. Bottom trawls is regarded as the most brutal killers of marine life. For the sake of few fish, corals that stand for centuries are crushed as by a bulldozer sweeping all the life they comprise thus eradicating sea mountains that host an abundance of life as much as a rain forest. The amount of fish caught by the world’s largest trawler in a month is equal to the amount of 7000 local small fishermen hunt a year. Pirate fishing boats without a license or fishing conducted outside a permit zone steal an incredible amount of fish, ruin marine life and exert killing blows to coastal economies.

Holistic Approach
In order to protect the seas, preserving a habitat of a single species or elimination of a single threat is not enough. All the seas can only exist as a single ecosystem. Due to this, we need marine reserves. Marine reserves consists of “core zones” that prohibit destructive activities such as fishing and mining and industrial discharge and where necessary any human activity. Implementation of these areas so as to form a network provides protection of areas prone to most immediate threats and that are in need of improvement. The remaining part shall of course be open to fishing and other activities, but in concordance with a necessary and essential condition: Good management!

Marine reserves provide protection. To protect the diversity of life and our desire to maintain the productivity on Earth, clearly explain the need for protection. Protection cannot be achieved by addressing a single animal, nor a single habitat alone. Effective protection methods function only by taking into account the complex relationships between living organisms and creating supportive solutions. The most important function of marine reserves is to protect ecosystems and key organisms as a whole. Therefore, studies carried out in a single area for a species of fish shall not contribute to healing of stocks or their habitats.

Therefore it is crucial to consider ecology and social structures as a whole and evaluate life by this means. Evaluation of a hydroelectric power plant to be established on a river, by taking into account its impact on small farmers engaged in production, the forest, the native animals, and the needs of sea shore fisherman that depend on fish that feed through the flow of the river to the sea or with the social and environmental needs of the traditional fisherman shall lead us to freedom.

[1] Tanuro, Daniel. “The Impossible Green Capitalism” TMMOB Chmaber of Electrical Engineers, Ecology Collective, Habitus Publicaitons (2011) pg. 56,
[2] Greenpeace Mediterranean
[3] Greenpeace Mediterranean