book review: Reading Notes for “The End of The Line”

“The End of the Line: How Overfishing is Changing the World and What We Eat”

by Charles Clover

2006 University of California Press

–        read October 2010

The Problem

75% of world’s fisheries are fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted. Demand continues to grow sharply.

Commercial fisheries use modern “fish-killing machines”  (p 42); technology creep increases catches over time

actual catch is 8 times the declared amount (p 48)

recreational fishing is 30-50% of total catch (p 274)

dredging damage: hard substrate bottom produced greater variety of species (p 55)

over-fishing is 1000 times more dangerous than drilling – Han Lindeboom

Orange roughy naturally outlives humans but few live to sexual maturity now (p 93)

“The trouble is there is not enough fish for everyone. It does not matter what system you have.” Gislason (p 247)

By-catch and Waste

by-catch is 1/3 of total worldwide per UN Food & Agriculture Org.

Only 10% of total fish killed is consumed as protein by humans

breakdown of menhaden use: 34% for feeding fish, 29% of hogs, 27% for poultry, <10% human and other uses

tuna by-catch (p 211)

Fisheries Management

comments on fisheries management (p 100)

– fisheries are managed to preserve jobs

– current overall worldwide management system is a direct cause of over-fishing

irony of government’s fish monitor boat (p 99)

– US has several management successes: pollock in Alaska, shrimp in Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic scallops, herring, black bass, striped bass.

– European Union Common Fisheries Policy is the worst management program

– examples of “garbage in / garbage out”; Canadian cod management in the 1980s

“A scientist’s first duty is to the truth. His secondary duty is to the public interest and his third duty is to the minister.” Professor John Shepherd of Southamptom University in England.

scientists who manage fisheries get offended (p 216)

“Everywhere in the world the fisheries manager is there just to perform the traditional role of keeping the fishing industry happy”. (p 219)

quota management (p 235)



amount of ocean for conservation (p 262)

– no take zones work (p 269)

4 year ban on herring was successful (p 64)



fish farming is the fastest growing industry (p 291)

– fishing will save blue fin tuna (p 303)

– short comparison to land-based agriculture learning curve (p 326)

Failure of Subsidies (p 136)

“The only equilibrium in a subsidized system is zero fish. The system is set up to fail – necessarily”. Randy Myers, Newfoundland (p 133)

“So what lies at the root of a democratic politician’s impulse to dish out subsidies? First is a disgraceful need to buy votes with other people’s money, often dressed up as the redistribution of wealth. Second is the misguided belief that subsidizing fishing is somehow investing in the industry. In fact, in a hunter-gatherer economy, you invest only by leaving the resource alone. The way to defeat subsidies in well-governed countries is to create transparency, a free press, and proper scrutiny by public auditors”. (p 140)

ownership of the sea issue (p 151)

“tragedy of the commons” concept published in Science (p 154)

Consumer Issues

labeling (p 200, 281)

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) list (p 285)

– certification of fisheries works

– eventually 6% of wold’s fisheries will be certified sustainable

– eat more blue whiting; low in PCBs and dioxins or antibiotics


“the time has come to change the laws of the sea so that they are more like the law of the land.”

“You have to be willing to write off one of the three dimensions – ecological, economic, or social – to solve the problem of sustainable fisheries management” – the conclusion of UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at Rome conference

“The idea of leaving part of the sea alone is very simple. It cuts accross the ideas of traditional scientific fisheries management with its impressive-sounding professionals telling us how much they know”. (p 269)

– amount of ocean needed for conservation: 10% to 50% depending on goal (breakdown on p 262)

– consumer environmentalists are effective (p 324) “sustainability is part of the overall quality standard the top eateries should be hitting”. (p 191)

– environmental education is effective “It strikes me that one ways of feeling less concerned about one of your fellow creatures is to not give it a name”.

– open access to data will help (p 327)

Some fish are more equal than others.



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