Executive Summary for November 24th

In our weekly roundup, we report on the expected creation of the largest marine reserve in North America, an increase in fishing quotas for the prized Atlantic bluefin tuna and concerns that Brexit was oversold as an easy fix for U.K. coastal fishing communities.

Published on Nov. 24, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Mexico’s ‘Galapagos’ to Become Largest Fully Protected Marine Park

Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto signed an order on Friday to create what would become the largest fully protected marine reserve in North America.

This action helps protect whales, sharks, sea turtles, corals and countless other marine life.

The marine park significantly expands an existing protected area around the Revillagigedo islands in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which were deemed a United Nations World Heritage site in 2016, and are sometimes called Mexico’s “Galapagos.” The waters surrounding the volcanic islands harbor a density of unique wildlife because they straddle two ocean currents and tectonic plates, where seamounts rise from the seafloor.

A proposal for the park, to which Mexico informally committed in October, would protect an area the size of the Yucatan peninsula and close it to fishing, hotels and extraction activities, while allowing limited ecotourism.

The campaign to create the reserve was led by a number of Mexican environmental groups, such as Beta Diversidad, with support from international nonprofits. Recently, the E/V Nautilus, an exploration vessel operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust, extensively documented the undersea life in the area and has posted some amazing videos and photos on its site.

Conservation Groups Blast Decision to Raise Atlantic Bluefin Catch Limits

Although scientists say populations of Atlantic bluefin tuna have not yet recovered from decades of overfishing, fisheries regulators voted this week to increase catch quotas to record levels.

Canadian organization Ecology Action Centre accused the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) of negotiating the measure behind closed doors and providing little justification for the increases in the allowed harvest. In general, conservationists fear the increased quotas could undo recent progress in recovering populations of the massive, fatty fish.

“This year was an enormous step backwards for sustainable tuna fisheries,” Paulus Tak, a senior officer for the Pew Charitable Trusts, and an official observer at the ICCAT talks, told Agence France-Presse.

How Brexit Could Spur Overfishing

“Few issues better symbolize the politics of Britain’s exit from the European Union (Brexit) than fisheries.” So claims a new report from a United Kingdom think-tank, the New Economy Foundation.

Prior to the vote in 2016, some fishing groups, such as Fishing for Leave, lobbied for Brexit – believing it was time for the U.K., with far more coastline than the rest of Europe, to take back control of its waters. According to the report, coastal communities and small-scale fishers are now looking to Brexit for hope in otherwise dire economic times.

The New Economy Foundation says their bubble is likely to burst as Brexit policies are implemented. It analyzed six Brexit scenarios from a fishing perspective and found only in one of the more unlikely scenarios would the U.K. fleet benefit across the board.

More likely, smaller boats will do “far worse” than larger commercial boats that hold existing quota licenses and could see them increase. Meanwhile, retailers and processors that are more affected by trade with the E.U., as well as coastal port towns, are likely to see downsides.

Fish could see the worst effects, and then no one will benefit. The report finds a “very real possibility” Brexit could lead to overfishing as U.K. politicians promise more fish without the E.U. planning to take any less.

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