Bull Pucky

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Posted by seahunt on January 05, 2000 at 17:18:13:

In Reply to: Re: Ode To The Sea Urchin posted by msblucow on January 04, 2000 at 23:26:55:

Your talk is fairly good, 'barring trawlers going after urchins', but it
still ain't so. What you say is party line stuff, but what you are missing
is a first hand experience with the situation. If you dived the area, you
might know better... or you ight just be an ideologist with no interest in
what the truth is. In any case, I'll reply to each of your points, because,
as I said, they sound good, but it just ain't so.

>First of all , let's get one thing straight. Otters are in no way, shape
>or form having a 'comeback'. In fact, over the last 10 years or so, their
>population growth has been leveling out. There are many theories about
>this and it's a very complex issue, but the major contenders are polution
>and habitat pressures from sea-side developement.

****Theories Schmeories -
When their habitat expands from a few in Big Sur, to where they extend from
south of Point Conception to way north of San Francisco, that's a comeback.
Of course their population has leveled out. They ate all the food there. It's
not pollution or encroachment by humans. They live in a remote, pristine part
of the coast where there is minimal impact from humans. Of course they do
thrive in the urban areas around Monterey and Carmel. The idea of humans
being a big bother to otters is laid to rest by watching them happily romping
around and mating in Monterey Harbor as boats go zipping back and forth
>Secondly, let's review history. Before the 1800's, sea otters and other
>marine mammals, abalone, sea urchin, etc.,etc.,etc...existed in ecological
>balance. Then came European hunters with the fur and oil trade. Boom! There
>goes sea otters, sea lions, whales, etc., etc., etc. Boom! There explodes
>the abalone and sea urchin (and anything else that just had it's preditors
>wiped out) populations. Then by the 1970's or so, the abalone population is
>just about wiped out by over-harvesting and pollution. Sea urchins, not
>nearly as tasty as their cousins the abalone, continue to explode in
>population until they are the dominant invertibrate on the sea floor in
>California. Meanwhile, conservation efforts begin to haul the sea otter, sea
>lion, gray whale, etc.,etc.,etc... back from the brink of extinction. And,
>to a point, it works. So far, so good.
First thing that gives your lack of knowledge about the situation is your use
of the term 'ecological balance'. You use it as an emotional term like an
enviornmentalist, not as a system analytic term like an ecologist. In that
form, it just means 'before Europeans got there'. To an ecologist it has a
very different meaning. Remember, the Native Americans hunted otters and the
rest of the intertidal zone as well. So say, 'before humans' and it's still
a meaningless term to serious ecologists.
Obviously you weren't diving in the 1970's. Everything was super abundent,
urchins included. They in no way replaced the abalone. Abalone like flat
rocks. Urchins like to be surrounded by rock. Sometimes the niche overlaps,
but not that much.
>So now we're at the present. The gray whale is doing great, the sea lion
>couldn't be better, the otters still need a lot of help, but at least their
>numbers aren't down in the hundreds like they were a couple of decades ago.
>They're even starting to reclaim their historical ranges, spreading out a
>bit so that when the big oil spill hits (and I do mean *when*, not *if*), the
>entire population won't be wiped out. Meanwhile our lowly friend the
>California sea urchin has gained the attention of Asian food markets and
>sushi chefs from around the world and suddenly they are the target of
>bottom-scraping, sein-net carrying trawlers desperate to find another market
>to exploit.
The Sea Lion couldn't be better!!!! Their population is due for a crash from
over population too. There has never been so many of them.
Ummm. Trawlers are not used to take urchins, but you do point to the problem
of commercial fishing. I would worry more about the sea cucumber and the live
fish take more if I were you. I would say that they are in far more trouble
than urchins.
Current circumstances do not lead to a scenerio that causes a large oil spill
off the Big Sur Coast unless it is a natural one. The oil tankers just aren't
going there and there is no current prospect of oil drilling in the area.
>Which brings me to my last point. It's easy for seahunt and others like him
>to point to the sea otter and say, "It's all your fault!". By targeting the
>warm and fuzzy sea otter, he gets to target the warm and fuzzy-headed
>political liberals he dislikes so much. You know, the ones who set limits on
>lobsters, the ones who only let you free-dive for abalone north of San
>Fran., the ones who want to protect the Channel Islands from ALL hunters,
>sport and commercial alike, so that others
>who don't hunt can enjoy these wonder in perpetuity.
I hate to say, but if you check out my writings on my web page, I point the
finger at commercial harvesters and explain why the laws are insane and quite
predictable in their results of overharvesting.
Limits on lobster take only effect sport divers, who take a tiny percentage
of the bugs harvested yearly. Of divers hunting lobster, on any given trip,
how many of them even get a limit? Very few.
This is not a political issue. It is a biological issue. It is fuzzy headed
people that would propose 'no take' at the Channel Islands. I may not like
the commercial fishers, but I understand their place. Like I said, the
regulatory agencies tend to adopt policies that either lead to over harvest
or no harvest. Both are bad ideas. It would be a great idea to shut down
harvesting and let all the populations recover. But at a point it is better
and more reasonable to have a regulated harvest that, unlike present
policies, leaves the populations healthy... Other than that, wouldn't it be
nice to close Santa Barbara Island to all hunting. It's small and isolated,
and arguably has the prettiest diving of the Channel Islands with the best
vis... Still not practical in the long run.
>Sure sea otters are cute and fuzzy. But that's not a reason to defend them.
>They're to be defended because they BELONG here. All the way to Baja. They're
>historically important predators neccessary to the balanced ecology of our
>waters. And their population is still incredibly fragile, no matter how much
>sport hunters howl to the contrary. If seahunt and his friends cared as much
>about the health of California waters as they do about their weekly take of
>lobsters, they ought to be on the horn to Washington, demanding an end to
>destructive harvesting of sea urchin, shrimp, squid and other sea 'products'.
They BELONG there... That is a very poor arguement. It has only your heart to
support it.
Otters are generalists like humans and they do not promote a balanced ecology.
They make a devestated ecology. Dive any where in the otter areas and see the
condition of the invertebrate populations. I don't much like the commercial
harvesters, but even with present laws, they seem benificial to the ecology
compared to otters.
The solution to game management issues in California will have to be
integrated to include commercial fishers and otters in California.
Statistically, sport divers are pretty much irrelevant.
>So there. That's my rant. Let the games begin...
Nice rant, but I must disagree. Really, just dive the otters areas,
say from Morro Bay to Santa Cruz, and you will see their effect.
Enjoy the diving, seahunt
PS. Divers have tended to have bad habits about game and environmental
management as did everyone entering frontiers, but that is the human nature
of the hunt. Breaking urchins to attract fish seems, from the present, to
have been a bad idea, but most divers are presently far more careful than
they used to be.
What would be a good idea, if you study the real ecology of kelp forests
(Wheeler J. North), would be for divers to place rocks when they see a good
location where they can create fish habitat. Fish populations on a reef are
dependant on the places fish have to hide in the rocks. The more places,
the more fish.

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