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Education Earth Science

Gulf Oil Spill Disaster — Spawn of the Living Dead 228

Posted by timothy
from the less-on-your-plate dept.
grrlscientist writes "A recently published study, intended to provide data to commercial fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico so they maximize their catch of Yellowfin Tuna, Thunnus albacares, whilst avoiding bycatch of critically endangered Atlantic (Northern) Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus thynnus, suggests that the Deepwater Horizon oil leak may devastate the endangered Atlantic bluefin population, causing it to completely collapse or possibly go extinct."
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Gulf Oil Spill Disaster — Spawn of the Living Dead

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  • Ummm, no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @01:31PM (#32526086)
    When a single bluefin tuna can bring $75,000 at market, it's not Deepwater Horizon, no matter how horrific, that's causing bluefin tuna to go extinct.
  • by decipher_saint (72686) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @01:31PM (#32526088) Homepage

    It's pretty simple actually, biological diversity is important.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, 2010 @01:33PM (#32526108)

    Ecosystems are notoriously hard to fix once they get out of whack.

  • Straw man much? No one is claiming we should save every species. You yourself say we shouldn't poison or hunt species into extinction. That is all anyone is talking about here, so you could have just said that and left out the straw man completely. It's not as if these tuna were about to go extinct on their own, and now there is a huge campaign to save them. We are responsible, and not to the tuna but to the people whose livelihood depends on them, and to the people like me who find them delicious.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @01:36PM (#32526156) Journal
    Well, in this case, it is in humanity's self-interest, if nothing else, because bluefin tuna are legendarily tasty.

    The ethical duties, if any, of environmental preservation are debatable. The fact that crashing the population of a species you like to eat is stupid and self-defeating isn't.
  • by Pojut (1027544) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @01:38PM (#32526182) Homepage

    I don't think it is our responsability to save "every" species...but I think it's our responsability to save species that we have directly endangered through our own actions, whether those actions are on purpose or a mistake.

  • by Dasher42 (514179) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @01:38PM (#32526188)

    Like the other poster said, biodiversity is key. It makes natural systems resilient; it means every ecological niche has a backup plan. Everything's in a web of relationships.

    When a species goes extinct, the species in some relationship with it are put under stress or imbalance; it ripples through the system. Eventually the system gets overwhelmed and collapses.

    Just to be clear, our petroleum and pesticide-based agriculture can go so far, and you do not want to live on a planet with collapsed ecosystems after you've destroyed it for a quick buck. It'll be like Easter Island - miserable survivors with no wood to repair their boats, fighting and cannibalizing each other.

  • Re:Ummm, no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @01:40PM (#32526212) Journal
    The fact that Bluefin are valuable has been responsible for the 80%-90% reduction in numbers; but also for the fact that people get real touchy about anything that threatens the last 10% or so.

    The trouble here is that Bluefin like to go to the Gulf to spawn. If the delightful mixture of hydrocarbons and toxicologically troublesome dispersants turns out to poison eggs, sperm, or tiny juvenile fish, you could easily get an ecological impact equivalent to massive harvesting of the adult population; but without even the compensatory sushi.
  • by Demonantis (1340557) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @01:42PM (#32526230)
    We don't know what is acceptable diversity though. There have been periods of mass extinction [wikipedia.org] that occur randomly and the ecosystem survives.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday June 10, 2010 @01:43PM (#32526254)
    The problem is that, in their guilt trip, biologists have blamed man for the state of pretty much every endangered species on the planet. Can you name a single endangered species (or even variety of species) that man is *not* blamed for right now? I doubt there is even one. So that means that we are supposed to preserve every single species that happens to exist at this particular moment in our planet's history, like some weird zoo where we've effectively stopped natural selection?
  • Re:karma is real (Score:4, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @01:47PM (#32526302)

    Dude you're not a genius just a nutbag.

    There is no Karma this is just greedy assholes being greedy assholes. No amount of you whining and playing hackysack is going to fix it. Only laws against this sort of shit and maybe hanging a few fat rich bankers.

  • by linzeal (197905) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @01:49PM (#32526334) Homepage Journal
    The ecosystem survives but typically the top predators are all replaced.
  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @01:50PM (#32526352)

    The reality is man has in one way or another wiped out lots of species, deal with it. This is not a guilt trip, just reality. Stop making emotional judgements about statements of fact. This is not "blame" either just statements of fact. If you run over a cat, pointing that out is not blame just a statement of fact.

    The thing we need to do is protect the ones we like, these tuna taste great.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @01:54PM (#32526394)

    So statements of fact are a guilt trip?
    STOP MAKING EMOTIONAL VALUE JUDGMENTS ABOUT FACTS. That sort of shit is what makes people ignore oil spills, global whatever and pretty much every big problem.

  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @01:59PM (#32526488)
    I really have to agree with this sentiment. Both of these are Tragedy of the Commons [wikipedia.org] events, where single individuals (corporations) are overexploiting all of us, consequences be damned. Unfortunately, we've built a system where corporations have no responsibilities to anything or anyone beyond their own profit motive.
  • Re:karma is real (Score:3, Insightful)

    by spun (1352) <loverevolutionar ... minus physicist> on Thursday June 10, 2010 @02:23PM (#32526808) Journal

    Dude you're not a genius just a nutbag.

    It's fortunate for me that you believe this.

    Only laws against this sort of shit and maybe hanging a few fat rich bankers.

    Laws are not effective measures for preventing deeds. The wicked don't follow them and the virtuous don't need to.

    What about the vast majority of people who are neither wicked nor particularly virtuous? Nearly every society since the ancient Babylonians have found laws useful. If you have a practical replacement for a system of laws, I'd love to hear it.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @02:27PM (#32526854)

    Do you have evidence for this?

    I see lots of statements of fact people take as blame. For a quick example, humans wiped out the wisent. We then restored them to some degree. This is a statement of fact, as we have records of them being killed and they finally ceased to exist in the wild at the end of WW2. The retreating Wehrmacht wiped out the last of them in the wild, no one disputes these facts. It is not blame to say we did this, only a statement of fact.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @02:29PM (#32526870)

    I made not such claim, but that is a nice strawman you have there. It is not in fact the only hypothesis people are working under, you probably know that too.

    I merely stated you made emotional value judgments about facts.

  • by mrjb (547783) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @02:57PM (#32527222)

    If you fallow Darwinian logic won't there eventually only be one species? Survival of the fittest and all.

    I'm afraid you're mixing up "the origin of species" with Highlander. "Survival of the fittest" implies that within a species, only the ones that are most fit to deal with their environment will survive. Darwin never claimed that "in the end, there can be only one". In fact many species live in mutual beneficial relationships with each other.

  • by roman_mir (125474) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:05PM (#32527318) Homepage Journal

    the only single way to stop such incidents in the future from happening is to punish, punish, punish and punish more and punish severely for any transgressions.

    without punishment that is severe swift and strong there are no incentives for anyone to do the job right, this includes the regulators who are also people and will also corrupt the process.

    i am against any and all regulations at all, there is not a single regulation i am for. there is only one thing that governments need to do: punish.

    There is no regulation that government can come up with to stop all players in all industries from doing some new form of butchery. government does not have man power, money and it does not want to regulate.

    regulation = work. regulation = less money for the government.

    regulation = corruption.

    the only way to achieve balance between the public and the private corporate sector is through severe and swift consequences.

    give me the permission and a gun and i will personally execute every single person responsible for this disaster, i promise not to stop for a lunch break either. i will shoot in the head twice always.

    this would really put some fear into the rest of the bunch and make them actually do more work on preventing and fixing disasters that destroy public resources, such as the ocean (and eventually the food supplies and the air)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:22PM (#32527562)

    The reason that punishment won't work as a deterrent is that corporations are fundamentally sociopathic and lack a sense of fear. As institutions they will take risks that individuals don't ... and in some cases the individuals will take risks too.

    Let's put it this way. The penalty for playing Russian Roulette and getting unlucky is death. If I offer someone a million dollars to pull the trigger, though, plenty of people will do it. You think threatening to punish corporations which get unlucky when they take risks, AND unlucky enough to get caught, is going to stop the problem?

    You could send every last director of BP to a concentration camp, and after the shock wore off, corporations would start to take increasing risks until someone rolled a 1. You don't even need to explicitly put risk-addicted sociopaths in control. It's enough that the upper layers reward people in the lower layers who get results by cutting corners.

    This is why we must have oversight and regulations in addition to effective punishment. What we need is enough citizen participation in the governmental process to reverse and then guard against regulatory capture. When a bunch of angry citizens start hammering their congresscritters to fire the foxes from hen-house watch duty, things change for the better.

    People keep pointing this problem out to you, and you keep continuing in your assumption that you can come up with some magic set of rules that will allow the system to function on its own, without people like you and me getting their hands dirty. It doesn't work like that, because people are smarter than systems of rules.

  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:24PM (#32527604)

    For us to think that we have some right to alter the environment to suit ourselves at the cost of other potential species is hubris.

    We're already doing it. It's not a question of right, but merely of fact.

    The idea that we have the capability to do so is laughable.

    What do you think a city is?

    You're not for the environment, you're for your current cushy lifestyle.

    Correct. I'm also well aware that my current cushy lifestyle depends on a nice, stable environment. It seems that you merely don't understand what constitutes a nice, stable environment.

    An unknown, big change is just as likely to be good for humans as it is to be bad.

    Argument from ignorance - specifically, argument from ignorance about the state of knowledge about biology, climatology, physics and game theory.

  • by unity100 (970058) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:26PM (#32527634) Homepage Journal
    punishment doesnt work. punishment never worked. back in 1560, penalty for smuggling, trading with non royal companies in spanish main was death, yet, everyone smuggled.

    the punishment for numerous corporate crimes is death in china, yet still many ceos are committing those crimes.

    punishment doesnt work. its stupid to punish something, after a crime is committed.
  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:26PM (#32527646)

    And to be very specific, I don't think you, or anybody else, is going to die because one species of tuna collapsed in the North Atlantic.

    Very true. But at some point, the accumulation of species extinction is going to hit us, and especially if that species happens to be a keystone species. God help us all if krill happens to become extinct. It'll be Soylent Green for all of us.

    The point is that arguing that a) in the long run, it's all a wash and b) it's just one species manages to both be way to far-sighted and way to short-sighted. The collapse of the blue-fin Tuna has to be seen in the context of the collapse of a lot of other fish species. It's not that it is just one species that might disappear, it's that it is another one in a long line of species.

    Finally, the big problem is that disappearance of one species indicates that more issues might be afoot in the environment, which could cause more species to disappear.

  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:29PM (#32527686)

    I can't help to ask what makes you think we humans are so much more special than dinosaurs that we deserve to survive as a species

    Absolutely nothing. This is merely self-preservation talking, just like for every other species. I'm pretty sure if dinosaurs could write, we would have found loads of discussions around the theme of what to do with the dying, the cloud ash, and how to survive the dark and burning skies.

    Reality is simple: Nature is tough, and we have but two choices: deal with it, or check out.

    Spot on. I'd prefer not to check out. Which requires dealing with nature, which in turn requires making sure that nature has a place for us in it. Unfortunately, we haven't figured out how to survive without nature (see the failed Biodome experiments), so we're stuck with making sure that we don't need a biodome.

  • by ultranova (717540) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:29PM (#32527688)

    Not trolling here, but since when is its mankind's responsibility to save every variety of every species of animal on the planet?

    Since when we realized that every snapped link in the food web makes it weaker and more likely to collapse completely, which would be rather unpleasant for us.

    I know that we have been responsible for the extinction of many species, but does that now make us responsible for stopping extinction altogether?

    Yes. Every extinction weakened the balance of the ecosystem, making it more prone to chaotic changes. Since we don't know when we reach the critical point - when the cycle of extinction starts feeding on itself, with each change killing more species, which causes more change, which kills more species and so forth - it would be a really good idea to do something while we still can.

    Huge swaths of species went extinct long before man even came along, and so it seems pretty clear that it's part of the natural order.

    Yes, mass extinctions occur every now and then and typically end up wiping out the dominant megafauna. That means us.

    But I am saying that it's not our responsibility to save every species in the world that happens to exist now, not our place to end "extinction" itself as a process.

    It's our place to do whatever we damn well please with this world, or can you give a single reason why it wouldn't be? And it would be best for us to keep it as close to as it is, ecosystem-wise, since that's what we're evolved for and can likely deal with best.

  • by roman_mir (125474) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:35PM (#32527806) Homepage Journal

    You are wrong, in case of corporations punishment is a much better deterrent than in case of any single individual.

    It is highly unlikely that all parties that can bear part of the blame in case things will go wrong will take very cavalier attitudes towards their responsibilities.

    when it is one person committing a violent act, murder or burglary or whatever, then it is only one person that needs to step over the line.

    In case of a corporation many people need to step over that line.

    If punishment involved actual confiscation of money and property as well as prison time and possibly dis-assembly of the corporation, then punishment on that scale would generate enough 'common sense' in a corporation. Many people don't want to lose everything, money and power and freedoms and lives.

    People working in corporations are not actually that immoral, they just feel that they are part of the machine. If the rules changed, and the machine could not protect them and they did not feel that the machine would protect them, they would not be as cavalier about their responsibilities as they are now.

  • by Chowderbags (847952) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:36PM (#32527822)
    We're blamed because, quite frankly, we've been the single biggest coherent force on this planet for the last 12000 years (give or take a few thousand depending on how remote a location is). Yes, you'll see a few volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and asteroids, but they're either not particularly harmful, not widespread, or not continuous over a long period. Individually we're not powerful, but we've been diverting large rivers, clearing jungles and leaving deserts, introducing new species that overwhelm the local food web (Kudzu, Argentine Ants, the various domesticated animals that killed the Dodo) or even just changing wilderness into plowed fields and suburbs. The areas we don't inhabit long term, we toss our junk into without a second thought (see the garbage patches in the ocean).

    Yes, if we disappeared tomorrow, the planet would be back to it's old self in a million years. But we won't disappear tomorrow. We'll still be here. And the day after that. And the day after that. And short of a disaster that wipes out every other vertebrate, we'll probably keep on going somehow. But we have to ask ourselves if we really can't do any better (and no, I'm not a neoluddite here, I just hope to live awhile). Should we prefer slightly cheaper gas or beaches that aren't contaminated with oil?
  • by ultranova (717540) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:49PM (#32528034)

    However, it is not the only fish to fill it's particular role in said food chain. In fact, the article and even the summary comments on one of the Bluefin's natural competitor's the Yellowfin Tuna. This is just one example of many other competitors that occupy the same, or very similar ecological roles as the Bluefin. Thus, what I think the parent was trying to get at was that even if the Bluefin population collapses (which, of course, would suck to some extent or another), it would not be some great ecological crisis.

    Having two fish species compete in the same ecological niche means that you can lose one of them without catastrophic consequences. However, it also means that if you do lose Bluefin, and then something happens to Yellowfin - a plague, for example - there are no more Bluefins to take over.

    Having multiple species that fill the same role is good precisely because it makes the ecosystem more robust; ergo, losing those redundant species makes ecosystem more fragile, even if it doesn't collapse oturight.

    In fact, since we don't know exactly what the optimal amount of diversity for a given ecosystem is, claiming, generally, that diversity is good and so extinction is bad is pretty disingenuous. For all we know, a given ecosystem may actually need a particular species to die out so that the rest of the ecosystem may maintain equilibrium.

    No. All data we have points to more diverse ecosystems being more robust. The only exceptions are situations where a species has been introduced to outside its normal ecosystem and lacked any natural enemies to keep it in check in the new environment.

    And even if your speculation was correct - and there's no reason to think it is - there would still be no reason to assume that it applies to Bluefin and to this situation.

  • An unknown, big change is just as likely to be good for humans as it is to be bad.

    That is massively untrue. An unknown, big change is much more likely to be bad for humans. When you're dealing with a hugely interconnected web of an ecosystem, big unknown changes are likely to alter the system, such that it stabilizes in a different state. The current state of the world is very nice for humans. An end to many easily caught food species will not be so nice.

  • by Bing Tsher E (943915) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @08:44PM (#32530940) Journal

    That aside, why is it that a corporation like bp can wipe out an entire ecosystem and destroy a species that so many depend on for making a living?

    It almost sounds to me like you're defending the people who've overfished the blue-fin to near the point of extinction. Poor, poor fishermen. They were only doing what comes natural to them, and it's horrible that BP may have given the final little nudge. Their way of live (driving the blue-fin to near extinction) is at risk.

  • by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Thursday June 10, 2010 @09:43PM (#32531248) Journal

    Cool.

    So it's really not about saving the Bluefin Tuna after all, but about preserving existing diversity so we humans can continue to thrive within it in ways that we're already familiar with.

    Thanks for clearing that up.

  • by Yoozer (1055188) on Friday June 11, 2010 @01:22AM (#32532304) Homepage

    There is zero logical reason for humans to actively "protect" the environment.

    There is also zero logical reason for humans to shit where they eat. Yet that's exactly what we're doing here.

    Building a city is not fundamentally altering the environment any more than a a bear taking a shit in the woods.

    Correct. However, the people in the city need water and food - try cutting of NYC's water supply for a week and you'll need to be Snake Plissken if you want to go in there and return. You'll have to create farmland, and for water, you have to divert a river or pump an aquifer dry. So, that one city impacts a way bigger swath of land and resources than you propose. Of course, you knew this already and I'm not telling you anything new, but it'd have helped your argument if you included this.

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