Tag Archives: environment

The Busan Fish Market: A Small Piece of a Huge Problem

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Over 80% of all life on the planet resides in the oceans and unfortunately is nearly invisible to us as it quickly vanishes beneath the surface of the water due to over fishing, pollution, and global warming. Many fisheries which once supplied abundant food for humans and sustained richly bio-diverse ecosystems are gone and many more are on the verge of collapse.

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Without healthy oceans the rest of the planet’s life systems are in jeopardy. Ocean nutrients feed terrestrial ecosystems, over 50% of oxygen produced comes from ocean phytoplankton, and human beings and other animals rely on the abundance of food sourced from the ocean across the globe. Oceans are the lifeblood of the planet and it is widely agreed that they are being rapidly depleted and destroyed.

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So, when I visited the Fish Market in Busan, South Korea, these were all of the thoughts going through my head. While I admired the bounty of the sea, I also was keenly aware that much of what I was seeing was part of the vast system of commercial fishing that is depleting our oceans at an unsustainable rate worldwide.

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While much of the ocean life that was for sale may still be in relative abundance for the next few years, I also saw items for sale that we know to be severely threatened and any consumption has a direct and real impact on species with very uncertain futures. These included whale meat, turtle, and bluefin tuna.

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Unfortunately, with human populations growing worldwide and the increasingly advanced methods for harvesting larger and larger catches of ocean life, there is little hope that much will change until it is too late. In parts of the world certain fisheries have been closely regulated to maintain sustainable levels of harvest, but regulating the seafood industry worldwide is incredibly difficult.

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Of course the Fish Market in Busan is not the problem, it is just one piece of a huge picture, but when it comes to the oceans, each piece needs to be carefully looked at to better understand the whole so that action can be taken to protect the lifeblood of this planet before it is too late.

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If you would like to learn more about the problems facing our oceans and what some people and organizations are doing to help please check out the links bellow:

http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx

http://www.ted.com/talks/capt_charles_moore_on_the_seas_of_plastic.html

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/oceans/whaling/

http://www.surfrider.org/

http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/protect/

http://www.seashepherd.org/

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The “River” Seoul

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Cheonggyecheon Stream

On my first day in Korea it came as no surprise to me that the county is facing the same environmental, social and political problems as most of the rest of the world and like much of the world the average citizen is comfortable enough to remain asleep to the issues.

I was able to get a glimpse into these issues from the woman who was working the front desk at my guesthouse in Seoul. It turned out she was studying environmental science at University and was familiar with Portland because of our “green” and “sustainably” initiatives (she actually used the ironic air quotations to indicate her understanding that these are loaded terms). As I was getting ready for my day and asking her what I should do, she pointed out the normal tourist things and then said, “but if you are interested in environmental stuff, you should really go check out Seoul’s “stream””.

She went on to tell me how in Feng Shui it’s important that palaces be built with the mountains behind them and a river in front. The main palace in Seoul was built with this in mind hundreds of years ago, but due to development and over use of water, the river that had once flowed in front had since dried up. She said that in a grand political move to garner public support and help his construction buddies, the then Mayor of Seoul (and now president of Korea) decided to bring the river back to life.

Unfortunately, as is often the case, this was not a project to restore an ecosystem and little environmental considerations were taken into account. This rivers new life was more like life-support rather than being healed. The river bed was paved over and water was pumped in from a nearby river in order for it to flow. Wildlife and fish were introduced, but nothing survived for long as it was not an appropriate habitat. She told me that people in this city are so desperate for any “green space” that there was mass acceptance for the project and now across the country there are similar plans to implement these artificial rivers. She said that most people in Korea are ignorant to the issues and don’t understand what’s going on. Which is a sentiment I understand from working on similar problems back home.

While listening to her lament about corrupt politicians, feel-good environmental projects and a citizenry that is more wrapped up in consumerism than dealing with real issues, it reminded me how connected we really are and how until we develop radical new social and political systems, our struggles will be mostly uphill battles. The hydrological cycle is just one ecological system necessary to sustain life and a fake river does nothing to restore this system, but does a good job at making people forget that there was a problem in the first place. Unfortunately, the planets ability to sustain life includes humanity and if we forget this we have no one blame but ourselves and it will be our future generations that will ultimately pay the price.