8 June - World Oceans Day / by Francisco Blaha

World Oceans Day has been unofficially celebrated every 8 June since its original proposal in 1992 by Canada at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was officially recognized by the United Nations in 2008.

I find the concept of "days" it a bit "cliche"... but then, they raise awareness (even if it is for only one day). The same "cliche" can be said perhaps about how I describe my relationship to the ocean. For me is a personal relationship, I somehow give the ocean a personality and a character... I go everyday I can into it, perhaps to say: thank you for feeding me, entertaining me and keeping me alive since I'm 17. Sorry for the abuse you get from some of me peers... I'm trying to change that... You have all my respect... or something like that. I know... a bit hippie or illogical... but I never claimed to above that. I see the ocean as a good friend.

So perhaps the best way I can honor that today is with this little piece from the SPC's (Secretariat of the Pacific Community - one of my favourite institutions in the world) latest newsletter, as it shows that big advances start with "humanly measured" steps. No change will come from things the base stakeholders do not understand, I like to think  that my job is to flatten the gap in between science and rules with people who is closer to the resource those rules and science are trying to regulate and understand.

Happy Word Oceans Day everyone!

Using body language to measure your fish

Marine animals – clams, crabs, fish, sea cucumbers, shrimps and turtles – all have to reach a certain size, different for each species, before they can spawn. It is important to leave them in the sea until they have reached that size and have therefore spawned at least once before catching them. Otherwise, there will be fewer parents for the next generation and eventually no more will be left. We also know that in fish species that grow to a large size, such as some groupers, parrotfish and trevallies, the biggest fish are the main producers of eggs and so they, too, should be protected. 

Fisheries officers put up notices and posters showing the minimum and maximum sizes for capture in markets and other public places. But these are often a long way from the fisher on the beach or in a boat, and by the time the catch reaches the market – if it goes to the market at all – the animals, other than turtles, are probably all dead. 

Most fishers across the Pacific sell their catch at a market or take it home and, with populations getting bigger, it is ever more important to follow the rules on the size of capture to avoid depleting the fisheries. Stiff penalties are sometimes handed out to those who break the rules.

The problem is, how to remember all those smallest and largest sizes and apply them when you are far from the market? Here are some suggestions, with diagrams to illustrate them.