The good news is that coastal ecosystems are so fertile many of them can bounce back quickly. At Chao Mai, within a couple of years the sea grass came back, and so did healthier fish stocks. The sea turtles and dugongs also returned, and that in turn brought more journalists and tourists. The villagers certainly still have their problems, but at least they now generally can make a living.
This is another angle for journalists to remember. It’s easy, when covering stories about the oceans or just about any environmental issue, to focus on the doom and gloom. Perhaps because of the old “if it bleeds, it leads” standard, it seems harder to convince editors to take stories on solutions and not just on problems. But they’re out there.
The Alaskan Pollock fishery, for instance, is often held up us a sustainable model. The Maine lobster fishery is also thriving, although that may be in part due to the decline of predators such as cod. In Europe, the Scottish Whitefish Producers Association is held up as an example of a trade association that has embraced enlightened policies, working with environmental groups, and unilaterally supporting strategic closures to protect spawning grounds.
“We understand that the fleet needs consolidation and the government doesn’t have money for more subsidies,” said Mike Park, the association’s director, in regard to ITQs, adding that they were very poorly designed when introduced to Scotland in 1998. “But we also have to guard against corporate buyouts.”
Will Europe’s fisheries reform efforts end up being a success story? Only time will tell, and the reforms may well get watered down between now and 2013. But even fisheries management doesn’t come across as exciting, it’s one of the more important environmental stories worldwide.