Caribbean Sea one of world's most polluted

Aretha Welch Trinidad&Tobago Express 23 Feb 08;

It is one of the most damaged seas on planet earth. The Caribbean Sea, the second largest in the world, is one of the most polluted seas in the world according to the first ever global study on sea pollution caused by human activity.

Oil spills, over-fishing, pollution from ships and climate change is killing substantial marine life. Oyster and seagrass beds, mangroves, fisheries and coral life are all disappearing; trawlers kill hatchlings by the thousands; birds and whales are struck by ships in what used to be open water but is now playing grounds for wealthy yatchies and oil companies.

The research findings of the global study were published in the February 15 issue of Science magazine.

The study was conducted at the National Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) in Santa Barbara, California.

Other seas said to be suffering the same fate as the Caribbean Sea are the North Sea, the South and East China Sea, the seas along the east coast of North America and the Mediterranean Sea.

Kim Selkoe, a research scientist and co-author of the study working out of Hawaii said over 80 percent of the world's seas are fished and young aquatic life has no where to hide from the nets and harpoons of marine based entrepreneurs.

"The other really surprising thing to me, from what our fishing data showed is that 80 per cent of the world's ocean is fished. There's nowhere left for the fish to boats are just really everywhere," she said.

Locally, the Cropper Foundation, a local non profit organisation which has done and published extensive research on the Caribbean Sea, has shown the clear link between the ecosystem and the economy, demonstrating that while the ecosystem is being destroyed, so too are certain economies.

The shortage of seafood and the depletion of the fisherman's source of income is just one economic side effect of the Caribbean Sea's degradation.

In the project report for the Caribbean Sea Ecosystem Assessment, the foundation found that "despite their significant value to the current and future well being of these (Caribbean) states, the ecosystem goods and services provided by the Caribbean Sea are under threat."

For environmentalist Prof Julien Kenny, pollution is the price to be paid for industrialisation.

"Even with education of the people, half will comply and half will continue to pollute. Pollution is one of those things you expect as countries become more industrialised," Kenny said in a brief interview with the Sunday Express.

"Significantly lessening pollution means changing human behaviour and that's a very hard thing to get done," he added.

Some activists believe the fight to save the earth starts with legislation to govern the countries' coastal areas and for better policing of local waters.

The Cropper Foundation notes that "the Caribbean Sea is used and impacted by many states which lie outside the geographical boundaries ... through leisure, trading and transportation activities," and that despite the formulation of fisheries legislation in all of the islands, "unregulated exploitation of limited fish stocks has continued unabated."