The BAD fishing stories of 2006

1.) Overfishing among threats to Gulf of Mexico

Associated Press — July 10, 2006

For years, millions of people have traveled to summer retreats along the Gulf of Mexico, with many ultimately putting down permanent sandy roots on the coast.

One of the problems the population boom has created is overfishing in Gulf waters, which has endangered marine ecosystems and fisheries that are the source of multimillion-dollar recreation and fishing industries.

Officials say efforts to rebuild the populations are under way, but many environmentalists accuse the government of lax enforcement of regulations meant to protect against overfishing.

Chris Dorsett of Austin, Texas, director of Gulf of Mexico Fish Conservation for The Ocean Conservancy, said fishery managers in the Gulf and elsewhere have ignored the law and allowed unsustainable fishing for many important fish.

2.) U.N. reports increases in ocean "dead zones"
Associated Press — Oct. 20, 2006

The number of oxygen-starved "dead zones" in the world's seas and oceans has risen more than a third in the past two years because of fertilizer, sewage, animal waste and fossil-fuel burning, United Nations experts said Thursday.

Their number has jumped to about 200, according to new estimates released by U.N. marine experts meeting in Beijing. In 2004, U.N. experts put the estimate at 149 globally.

The damage is caused by explosive blooms of tiny plants known as phytoplankton, which die and sink to the bottom, and then are eaten by bacteria, which use up the oxygen in the water.

Those blooms are triggered by too many nutrients — particularly phosphorous and nitrogen.

The U.N. report estimates there will be a 14 percent rise in the amount of nitrogen that rivers are pumping into seas and oceans globally over a period from when the levels were measured in the mid-1990s to 2030.

3.) Holy seabass! Spanish merchant pleads guilty
By Curt Anderson
Associated Press — Nov. 13, 2006

A Spanish businessman pleaded guilty Monday to obstruction of justice arising from an investigation into the illegal harvesting of Chilean seabass, in the first case of its kind brought in the United States.

Under a plea agreement, Antonio Vidal Pego was placed on probation for four years probation and fined $400,000. He also agreed to have no further involvement in the Chilean seabass business.

A Uruguayan company associated with Vidal, Fadilur S.A., also pleaded guilty to obstruction and will pay a $100,000 fine, its attorney said.

The U.S. Attorney's office said the case was the first time federal prosecutors brought criminal charges for the illegal importation and sale of Chilean seabass, a popular restaurant item also known as the Patagonian or Antarctic toothfish.

The species has been severely overfished worldwide and is the subject of international protection agreements. Environmental groups say commercial fishing "pirates" routinely violate those agreements because of the lure of immense profits.