Ayana Elizabeth Johnson: Will the Ocean Run out of Fish?

June 11, 2020

Trump revokes marine sanctuary designation under the doctrine of “if the Black guy did it, it’s bad”.

Washington Post:

President Trump signed a proclamation Friday that opened the Atlantic Ocean’s only fully protected marine sanctuary to commercial fishing, dismissing arguments that crab traps, fishing nets and lines dangling hooks can harm fish and whales.

Fishing can resume at the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of New England, Trump said. The Obama administration closed off nearly 5,000 square miles of ocean in September 2016 to save whales and allow marine life to recover from overfishing. The controversial decision was praised by conservationists and challenged by commercial fishermen from the start.

“We’re opening it up today,” Trump declared during a roundtable discussion with commercial fishermen and Maine’s former Republican governor, Paul LePage. “We’re undoing his executive order. What was his reason? He didn’t have a reason, in my opinion.”

Trump praised LePage for supporting the seafood industry and condemned Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat who took office last year, for slowly reopening Maine’s economy as a safety measure during the coronavirus pandemic. He said Mills, who was not invited to the event, is “like a dictator.”

Mills said Trump’s talk was more of the fiery rhetoric “he uses to try to divide us” and to stoke fear. “What Maine people heard today was largely devoid of fact and absent of reality,” the governor said. “What Maine people saw today was a rambling, confusing, thinly-veiled political rally.

28 Responses to “Ayana Elizabeth Johnson: Will the Ocean Run out of Fish?”

  1. Sir Charles Says:


    To: The UK government

    “Ban supertrawlers and other destructive fishing from the UK’s offshore Marine Protected Areas and stand up for ocean protection.”


  2. J4Zonian Says:

    2:23 “wild fish simply can’t reproduce as fast as 7 billion people can eat them.”

    But 7 billion people don’t fish them with industrial fishing fleets using war technology. Only the richest few percent of people do that. It’s not about 7 billion people; it’s about a few hundred million hogging way more than their share of fish and everything else, using war technology to fish, farm, hunt, log, mine, build malls, build roads and drive, deploy medical care… iow, to do everything.

    There are 5 reasons for the denial of unequal harm, aka populationism:
    1. It’s an expression of narcissism— ”If only there weren’t so many other people, there’d be more fish/stuff/love/attention/space/etc. for me.”
    2. So the globally rich can evade responsibility for the crises they cause. They can thus keep causing them, trying to satisfy their need for domination through money, power and cruelty.
    3. It’s an expression of r@cism, misogyny, anti-sexuality, and class prejudice, among the many projectile symptoms of malignant narcissism.
    4. As such, and extended into projective identification*, it’s an excuse for the feelings, beliefs and policies that come naturally to malignant narcissists—the ultimate and almost inevitable policy being genocide.
    5. Because there’s no population policy that can make a difference in the time available, it’s also an expression of despair and nihilism.

    * a defense mechanism in which the individual projects qualities that are unacceptable to the self onto another individual; because of actions the first person takes, the second internalizes the projected qualities and believes himself or herself to be characterized by them appropriately and justifiably. They then act on those beliefs.

    • jimbills Says:

      Who do you think eats the fish? Demand drives it.

      The rest of your comment is a bucket o’ crazy. Everyone who thinks overpopulation is a real problem is a racist, misogynist, classist, nihilist, malignant narcissist anti-sexual?

      How do you feed, clothe, shelter, and meet the other material and cultural needs of 7 billion people and rising? It’s all just the fault of greedy wealthy people – the 1%, or the 1% of the 1%?

      Overpopulation a real problem. Demand is driving deforestation, total global energy demand, species decline (including overfishing), aquifer and freshwater depletion, and widespread land use for agriculture with its long-term effects on the biosphere. Admittedly, population is a virtually unsolvable problem, especially in a necessary time frame, but someone acknowledging an elephant in the room doesn’t mean they are a virtual psychopath.

      Our predicament ecologically in the big picture is population size times consumption per capita (or basically, demand). Both population and consumption have an effect, combined they are worse, and supercharged in a capitalist economy they are greatly amplified. Blaming just the wealthy is a gross oversimplification. They are the greatest benefactors of the current system, and their greed has led to horrific abuses – but the system wouldn’t exist if they were the only ones in it. But I guess I’m a racist, misogynist, malignant narcisssist for saying that.

      • J4Zonian Says:

        “It’s a consumption issue, not a population issue. Population is a complete red herring in regards to 2°C budgets.”
        Prof. Kevin Anderson 43:50 

        “Going Beyond “Dangerous” Climate Change” London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

        ”Warming of 4°C or more could reduce the global human population by 80% or 90% and the World Bank reports “there is no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible”.

        50 years of propaganda have made it difficult or impossible for many people to adjust to the fact that inequality and the extravagance of the rich are what drive all our problems*. People are emotionally overwhelmed and thought processes hijacked simply by the relentless blaring of a single number—7 billion—or even just saying the p word, and then can’t absorb any facts that contradict the conditioned unconscious cascade of associations and triggered frames.

        The poorest 6 billion emit about 20% of human GHGs and similar proportions of other problems. If they magically disappeared we’d have exactly the same problems we have now. The rich are not just the 1%; there’s no dividing line, only a continuum along which the amount of wealth directly corresponds to the damage done (with a multiplier effect for the richest.)

        The IPAT equation you used is monstrously misleading because it averages all consumption and denies inequality. It blames victims of US militarism for the GHGs the US military uses to intimidate or oppress them. It blames poor farmers in Bangladesh and the children of favelas for the carbon footprint of people who eat meat or fish 90 times a month; feed their pets and have their fields fertilized with industrially caught fish; fly hundreds of thousands of miles a year; eat or use palm oil many times a day; heat, cool, furnish, and have electronics in every room of one or more huge poorly insulated houses; and far more important than the tu quoqueness of all that, don’t politically stop their country from its enormous per capita military and corporate waste. (The US wastes 40% of the food it grows (not counting wasting through obesity) and 85% of the energy it uses, not even counting as waste the trivial and destructive uses of that energy. It wastes as much of its lumber and metal and fiber… The US uses more electricity for cooling than Africa’s 1.1 billion people use for everything.)


        If 90% of the world’s people kept going as they are, and just the richest 10% cut to the level of the average European it would cut global emissions by ⅓.
        Kevin Anderson: Climate’s Holy Trinity 50m

        The only group causing harm are the rich. The only group growing in numbers are the poor. Population growth in all groups has been slowing for 50 years. Decline in population itself is virtually inevitable as births keep leveling off and death rates rise from the worsening ecological crisis.

        Global population is rising by 1% a year, consumption is rising by 3%.
        George Monbiot

        But as explained, those 2 things are happening in different places.

        Consumption Dwarfs Population as Main Environmental Threat

        Having fewer kids will not save the climate

        The impact of donating $1,000 to effective climate charities totally dwarfs the impact of having one fewer child.

        Water use has increased at more than twice the speed of population throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.

        Between 1950 and 2016 US population doubled, while vehicles in operation increased by 6 times and vehicle miles travelled increased by 7 times.

        The same is true of almost every resource. Consumption and harm have risen much faster and virtually independently of population, because the rich consume astoundingly more per person than others, and are getting richer and worse.

        Wealthier people produce more carbon pollution — even the “green” ones
        Good environmental intentions are swamped by the effects of money.
        David Roberts

        Why rich people use so much more energy
        It’s mainly all the traveling, says a comprehensive new study.
        David Roberts

        The propaganda continues. https://youtu.be/ZmNjLHRAP2U?t=1383

        How racist myths built the population growth bogey-man

        “Ecofascism is a growing movement in the far-right as the climate crisis becomes harder to ignore. It’s the use of environmentalist language to bolster far-right talking points. And it often begins with the idea of overpopulation.” globaljustice[DOT]org[DOT]uk/blog/2020/apr/6/humanity-isnt-disease-ecofascism

        If the problem is population; the solutions are
        1) protection for rich white men (guns, walls, invasions and sponsored coups—bridging the Rubicon to unify the military and police…)
        2) more money for the rich so they can protect themselves and “innovate” (aka invent new weapons to protect themselves, otherwise lie about working too improve anything), impoverishing others so the others can protect themselves even less and be less resilient in the face of diseases, climate catastrophe, and other hardships.
        3) So of course the ultimate solution to population is genocide.

        Populationism is white supremacy

        As far as I know you’re not a psychopath. First, not the term I used. Second, the vast differences between what I said and what you assumed are too much to explain here, but as with the rest of climate denial, those who get paid to make it up, focus-group test it, and start spreading it are psychopaths; those who fall for them are dupes. Don’t be a dupe. And don’t let your guilt-avoiding impulse toward denying your racism, your role in the problem, your participation in the other qualities I mentioned cause you to fall for the populationist lie.

        The truth is, with equality and ecological considerations (the precautionary principle, eg) paramount we can feed, house, clothe, and care for everyone on Earth. (We already, for example, grow enough to feed 10 billion.)

        *and addiction and other psychological issues are what drive inequality and endless destruction.

        • jimbills Says:

          I just saw this, but barely – you know it takes a while for Peter to approve a comment with more than two links in it.

          Population growth can be reduced internally when a certain level of economic development is reached. But with that development comes increased consumption on a per capita basis. With that development comes capitalism and its excesses, international competition, and exploitation.

          On a moral basis, as far as what’s fair and just to all people, definitely, third world countries should have every right to increase their economic development. This would eventually lead to a stabilized global population. But you are in fantasy land in thinking the already developed nations and the individually wealthy would significantly decrease their own consumption levels during the same period. Economic growth depends on increasing consumption, and our economies depend on growth. Additionally, human nature means that we are never satisfied with having the same amount (or less) than our neighbor – we always want just a little more than the other guy. So, while undeveloped countries develop, the already developed countries will be looking to further increase their own wealth.

          Population times consumption. Both would increase under that scenario – one that is ridiculously far more likely than the one you think could happen. With every increase in that formula, our environmental issues amplify. It’s not impossible that technologies can improve that status, but that takes time, and every increase in total demand leads towards a longer time frame.

          The fact that this predicament is insanely difficult to address doesn’t means it’s wrong – or that the people who believe it are psychologically flawed.

          We can limit populations without genocide – that’s a straw man. But, I also think that we won’t limit populations. We’re too selfish to do it. That link about paying $1,000 to a charity is better than having one less child (ironically filed under “Future Perfect”) is rationalization at its finest and an example of it. The author is writing that from a wealthy nation. Having one less child would also mean that a person could donate 100x times that amount to charities if they wished.

          In a perfect world, one without physical limits and where human nature is purely altruistic, neither consumption nor population would be a problem. You seem to think we either live in that world, or could live in it. But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a very physical one, inhabited by all too human beings.

          (For the record, I am very in favor of increasing third world prosperity while lowering first world prosperity. I believe developed countries should do far more to reduce their own populations than third world countries – and thanks for the comment about me being racist. On a personal basis, I live with the very lowest environmental impact I can, and I strive every day to reduce it further. I do these things because I believe it’s the moral thing to do. But I also recognize that the world isn’t occupied by a majority of like-minded individuals. You and I are very much in the minority – and it’s dreamy dreamland to think otherwise. Just look at that Vox link about the $1,000 vs. one child link again.)

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      2:23 “wild fish simply can’t reproduce as fast as 7 billion people can eat them.”

      But 7 billion people don’t fish them with industrial fishing fleets using war technology.

      Perhaps it would be better if she said “wild fish simply can’t reproduce as fast as n billion people can buy them”, where n represents all of the Chinese, North Americans, Europeans, etc., who buy industrially-caught fish either fresh or in the form of frozen or canned fish.

  3. indy222 Says:

    The rich take most of their $$ and put it into inflating asset prices, because they just can’t consume to the level near their ill-gotten income. The poorest 70% or so spend ALL of their income on consumption, including fish. So while I appreciate the sentiments, jimbills has the good point here. It’s all of us.

  4. redskylite Says:

    Climate change due to the burning of fossils is drastically effecting the abundance and distribution of fish in our oceans, the large human (over) population is speeding up the inevitable. Had we moderated our population growth years ago, we would still face the same problem, but would have a longer time to address it, than we have now. It is easier to fix our carbon dioxide producing habits, than to balance Earth’s entire population (that can only be addressed by education, and other more drastic methods,such as China imposed a few decades back, or even more draconian measures.)

    Fish are a precious commodity to mankind – lets do all in our power to preseve what we have left.

    “Destruction of coral reefs due to the ENSO events and persistent global warming continues to impact the fish supply chain across the global ocean regions, according to various studies used in production of the report.”


    • jimbills Says:

      You didn’t mention overfishing for some reason. The decline in fish populations is due to both climate change and overfishing – not just climate change. Say we fix climate change but don’t fix overfishing. What happens?

      I’m not saying there’s an easy solution to human populations and overall demand. There isn’t.

      7.79 billion people and climbing require something to eat. But pretending the issue doesn’t exist, or isn’t a problem at all, is foolish and wrong.

      • redskylite Says:

        I didn’t mention, plastic marine pollution, agricultural run-offs (hypoxic/dead zones), oil/diesel/ petroleum spillage nor deep sea mining. My main interest is climate related issues, that ‘s what attracted me Mr Sinclair’s postings (Climate Denial Crock of the Week) a few years ago.

        • jimbills Says:

          Hi redsky. Thanks for the reply. I didn’t thumb you down here – I give maybe 5 of those a year – and seeing one here prompted this reply.

          Other issues regarding fish populations – ocean noise from shipping (disrupts migration and reproduction patterns), urban runoff (not just agricultural), and ocean mining (which will increase in the future, perhaps dramatically so):

          All of the examples you listed, as well as the ones I listed, are the direct result of growing demand (the combined result of increasing population and consumption). To go to J4’s point of “it’s the wealthy people’s fault”, yes, industrial activities (owned and run by the wealthy), in order to boost productivity, lower costs, and increase profits, result in creating far more economic externalities than should exist. I’d be fully in favor in raising prices on things like seafood, we absolutely should do it, but I’d be in the vast minority on that.

          We absolutely should increase the size and number of protected areas, reduce or eliminate trawling, and limit catches. All of these things would also increase prices.

          • redskylite Says:

            Hi Jimbills,

            I generally run with the thumbs suppressed, I use Scriptsafe V1.0,9.3 on my Chrome browser and deny script “polldaddy.com”. The reason I do this is wordpress does not let you undo a vote, should you relent or mistakingly hit an thumbs icon. Also I have been very sure of things in the past, which have proved to have been drastically wrong (such as mainframe computers vs. distribution servers). So I do not participate in the thumbs regime generally.

            On the overpopulation issue, I feel it a) excuses/distracts from the AGW issue. b) is far too abstract and general: how many readers of this blog have over 1 or 2 children ?, should I have a word with neighbours who have more than 1 or 2 children, tell them they are creating a problem. (of course not they have a right) , some societies have a very low life expectation – very very complex subject, which suits a different blog.

            On AGW there is a relatively simple solution: stop burning fossils, use nuclear/solar/wind/marine instead etc etc.

            I am old and time is short, I can see we still have a short window to stop pumping shit into the atmosphere, but cannot see tackling overpopulation. If we are truly heading for the sixth mass extinction (as it seems), overpopulation may not be a problem in the future. Covid-19 has taught us how quickly things we take for granted can change.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            WordPress does indeed let you change your “thumbs” votes. Try it out—–thumbs up a comment, wait a couple seconds and then thumb it down with a double click, wait a bit more and voila. You can change it back and forth as many times as you want. I am going to do that with this comment—-up, down, reset to up.

          • jimbills Says:

            Sure. It just ticks me off when others deny that the elephant exists or that it’s a problem. It’s there and staring us in the face. As you stated, we’d have more time to address AGW with a lower population. Growing populations and growing consumption in the future will also make replacing fossil fuels much more difficult to achieve. It also makes all the other environmental issues much more difficult to solve.

            We see these things constantly, and yet we pretend it’s not a problem:

            Growth has thus far overwhelmed our ability to replace fossil fuels with cleaner alternatives.

            J4’s original comment went even further than just denying that population is an issue – basically stating that anyone who thinks population is a problem is psycho/selfish/so on.

            On AGW – true, overpopulation is not a solvable answer, especially in a needed time frame. Even consumption itself is probably unsolvable (both adding to total demand). But discussion about AGW as a topic doesn’t have to just be about answers. We do need to know why we are here, and outright denying its existence or that it has an effect is just wrong, and then labeling anyone who thinks it’s a problem as a psycho is doubly so.

          • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

            LOT of good comments above. ‘Rights”, are basically, the premise that an individual can do what he wants. Really really fond of them personally, even tho they are BS. Never are ‘obligations’ mentioned in the squawking about rights. You have the right to have 12 children, tricky to stop it, but not to drive a monster truck down a suburban street at 110 mph. Where is the line drawn? Preventing the destruction of the exosphere is a good start.

          • J4Zonian Says:


            “deny that the elephant exists or that it’s a problem. It’s there and staring us in the face. As you stated, we’d have more time to address AGW with a lower population. Growing populations and growing consumption in the future will also make replacing fossil fuels much more difficult to achieve. It also makes all the other environmental issues much more difficult to solve.”

            “On AGW – true, overpopulation is not a solvable answer, especially in a needed time frame.”

            So you’re saying if climate would give us more time to address population we’d have more time to address climate. I agree. But we don’t, and the paradox means we never can address population, which is taking care of itself. You apparently know that, so please don’t react by disinterpreting what I say and blaming me for talking sense.

            “J4’s original comment went even further than just denying that population is an issue – basically stating that anyone who thinks population is a problem is psycho/selfish/so on.”

            Not even close to what I said on either count. Please reread it, more carefully, keeping in mind your now more conscious awareness of the real problem, and without defensiveness.

            We don’t have to stop consumption. We can reduce it among the rich, increase it among the poor, and dramatically reduce its effects with clean safe renewable energy, small-scale low-meat organic permaculture, reforestation, replacing most flying and driving with public mass transit including high speed rail, applying the solutions we already know work on steel and concrete but won’t consider because the rich must profit on every transaction. And lots of other things.

            Instead of focusing on the problem we all know isn’t causing the problem and can’t be solved in time but is solving itself, maybe we should solve the problem that’s the real problem that we can solve.

            Except there’s a really good chance we won’t, because even though all the other excuses for ignoring the impending destruction of the biosphere by climate change have been proven to be lies, the rich can still use populationism and other aspects of racism to relieve themselves of responsibility and do nothing to actually solve the problem. They’ll have to be overcome by others willing to make the immense effort it takes to overcome a lifetime of relentless propaganda. IOW, the revolution that’s now started must expand to make defunding the oligarchy its main aim (with a stop along the way to avoid that annoying ending the world thing).

          • jimbills Says:

            J4 – really late reply, but I did catch this. Please define what you mean by ‘populationism’.

          • J4Zonian Says:

            Just caught this checking something else here, wanted to give an answer, even if it’s later than late.

            Populationism is the weaponized use of the unconscious associations most people in the US have to even the word “population”—hordes of dark people taking over, stealing, killing, seducing/raping white women, tempting white men, even “killer” bees (more accurately known as Africanized bees and in fact no more venomous than say, Italian bees or Brother Adam’s Buckfast bees). Africanized bees are, coincidentally, dark. The word, the frame, the concept, are used to distract people, focus their fear, rage and hatred on those poor people of color who can be safely blamed for causing a problem they are not causing. And the ultimate aim, besides equally unconscious psychological defense mechanism, is to prevent people from figuring out who’s really causing our ecological and conflict problems—rich people of mostly white—so those people and their corporate and government tools can continue to dominate and profit by exploiting, well, everything.

  5. redskylite Says:

    New insight into the Great Dying

    “A new study shows for the first time that the collapse of terrestrial ecosystems during Earth’s most deadly mass extinction event was directly responsible for disrupting ocean chemistry.

    The international study, led by the University of Leeds, highlights the importance of understanding the inter-connectedness of ecosystems as our modern environment struggles with the devastating effects of a rapidly warming planet.

    The Permian-Triassic extinction, also known as the Great Dying, took place roughly 252 million years ago. It saw the loss of an estimated 90% of marine species”


    This is an uncomfortable parallel with our own human-driven land use change, and we too are transferring large quantities of nutrients and other chemicals to the oceans.


  6. redskylite Says:

    “But because of the immense size and depth of the ocean, warming already absorbed at the ocean surface will mix into deeper waters.”

    “This means that marine life in the deep ocean will face escalating threats from ocean warming until the end of the century, no matter what we do now.”

    “This leaves only one option – act urgently to alleviate other human-generated threats to deep-sea life, including seabed mining and deep-sea bottom fishing.”

    “The best way to do this is to declare large, new protected areas in the deep ocean where damage to ocean life is prohibited, or at least strictly managed.”


    • J4Zonian Says:

      Then you’re going to have to prohibit pollution and warm water from going into the protected areas, and prohibit conservatives from ever having power again, since they’ll cancel all protections for everything every time they can.

      I think the people who said the best way is protected areas were suffering some kind of mental lapse; they’re thinking of doing the best they can, but seem to have inexplicably forgotten catastrophic global warming, which will irrevocably damage marine ecosystems whether there are lines drawn around them on maps or not.

      Whatever else is necessary, stopping and reversing climate catastrophe is by far the most important thing we have to do to protect the oceans. Plus it will dramatically reduce the lead, mercury, agricultural waste and other pollutants falling and flowing into the oceans.

  7. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Tangent: One of my Petty Peeves is the relatively recent increased misuse of “decimated” when they mean “devastated”. Decimated is a term which originally meant “reduced by 10%”, and even if its definition has expanded in modern time, I think its use effectively understates many circumstances.

    The AEJ video using “decimated” to refer to, say, the Goliath Grouper’s 95+% decline doesn’t convey how bad the decline was. I’ve seen “decimated” being used to describe many scenes of heavy or near-complete devastation of communities by wildfire, flooding, hurricanes, etc.


    • J4Zonian Says:

      I share the peeve. I’ve been looking for a good word for this for years, literally*. Obviously the legions didn’t have any 90% punishment.

      “novem vero partes” means nine tenths. Novemimated?

      *Another annoyance: Using “literally” for “very”.

    • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

      Join you and bring the cheese.

  8. J4Zonian Says:

    Supertrawlers ‘making a mockery’ of UK’s protected seas
    Vast vessels spent almost 3,000 hours fishing in officially protected areas in 2019

    “Supertrawlers spent almost 3,000 hours fishing in UK marine protected areas in 2019, making “a mockery of the word ‘protected’,” according to campaigners.

    Supertrawlers are those over 100 metres in length and can catch hundreds of tonnes of fish every day, using nets up to a mile long. A Greenpeace investigation revealed that the 25 supertrawlers included the four biggest in the world and fished in 39 different marine protected areas (MPAs).”

  9. J4Zonian Says:


    “If Americans’ 163 million Fidos and Felixes comprised a separate country, their fluffy nation would rank fifth in global meat consumption, Okin calculated, behind only Russia, Brazil, the United States and China …

    ”…the nation’s dogs and cats eat about 19% as many calories as the nation’s people, on par with all the calories consumed by the population of France in a year. Because dog and cat food tends to have more meat than the average human diet, this means that dogs and cats consume about 25% of the total calories derived from animals in the United States.”


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