Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Seven Seas Sabbath

Its not news to anyone who has been paying the slightest attention that the oceans are becoming over fished. Due to an ever increasing human population and a lack of ability to grow food like we do on land, (not to mention sometimes stupid and counter productive laws) we are seeing continually reduced population of some very important fish. Of course the call is for ever more government but it is undirected at best, and really doesn't address any of the actual issues.

The Bible addresses sustainable farming for the land by giving the land a periodic break as given in Leviticus 25:2-5 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD. Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: [for] it is a year of rest unto the land. Allowing this rest allows for renewal and refertilization of the soil as well as allowing the various insects and animals that naturally control pests and aerate the soils to do their necessary work. In fact this is a common practice in modern agriculture where the land will be divided into sections so that one field can lay fallow while the others are in use. This allows for the rest of the land, but still provides sufficient crops to provide the food required by the people.

I don't see a reason why this same principle cannot apply to the oceans. The idea would be to give each commercial fish species a sabbath every seventh year so that their numbers could be replenished. By allowing the fish to replenish their numbers would allow for sustainable fishing as well as healthier oceans and in the case of salmon, healthier rivers as well. Salmon return to the place of their birth to spawn at which time they die and then fertilize the rivers providing food for inland animals and even fertilization for the plants in and around the river.

An important element of this plan includes keeping the fisheries running and their people employed. It would require an occasional change in the type of fish brought in, which would likely require some additional equipment and certainly different techniques needed for a different crop. But as this change only needs to be on the seventh year there are ways that this could be gotten around by rotating the equipment and crew leadership. In this way the economic impact would be minimized tho certainly not eliminated.

This plan would require an international effort and would be its biggest challenge. The technical issues could be answered easily enough by a free market, but getting the various groups to hammer out such a deal? It would require fisheries, scientists and governments to agree on setting a schedule to harvest particular fish which may vary by locality e.g. Pacific or Atlantic. This would no doubt include environmentalists who, ironically, could be the biggest impediment to such a plan with their all or nothing mentality.

So there it is. I could flesh out my idea for setting up a Sabbath for the oceans but I think this lays out a simple enough foundation and a complete plan would require a vastly greater knowledge of commercial fishing than I care to ever have.

So what do you all think?