Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Abundance of the Seas

from the late Professor [Thomas] Huxley

"I believe it may be affirmed with confidence that, in relation to our present modes of fishing, a number of the most important sea fisheries, such as the cod fishery, the herring fishery, and the mackerel fishery, are inexhaustibleAnd I base this conviction on two grounds. First, that the multitude of these fishes is so inconceivably great that the number we catch is relatively insignificant; and secondly, that the magnitude of the destructive agencies at work upon them is so prodigious that the destruction effected by the fishermen cannot sensibly increase the death rate . . . I believe, then, that the cod fishery, the herring fishery, the mackerel fishery, and probably all the great sea fisheries are inexhaustible; that is to say, that nothing we do seriously affects the number of fish. And any attempt to regulate these fisheries seems, consequently, from the nature of the case, to be useless" ('The Abundance of the Seas', New York Times, November 17, 1895)

No-one makes an assumption of that kind any more, not after the catastrophic decline of fish populations in the North Atlantic and elsewhere. Except when it comes to the pillaging of human creativity, sentimentally deemed to be an equally inexhaustible resource. Hmmm.