Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Lobsters Flourish as Fish Dwindle

“We have made of water everything living. Will they not then believe?” (Quran 21:30)

In recent times, over-fishing has resulted in common foods such as tuna, cod and haddock being listed along with zebras and elephants as endangered species! The popularity of Japanese sushi in the West has to a large extent been held responsible for the world shortage of tuna. Efforts have been made to establish fish farms, but these have often been reported to be watery breeding houses of disease.

Yet even as fish supply dwindles, large ships are decimating whales and other large marine life. Not only are these amazing animals being diced by propellers, but their very mode of communication, essential to group survival, is being interrupted by military radar used by ships and submarines.

Some scientists believe that dolphins and whales could be as intelligent, or perhaps more intelligent than humans, based on their brain size and ability to engage in empathy. A few years back, we even heard news reports about a Cuban child victim of a shipwreck who was saved by dolphins, and eventually landed in Florida, forcing the US to actually engage in diplomacy with Cuba in order to return the boy to his father. Using their radar-like signals, ocean mammals like dolphins and whales can communicate to each other through hundreds, even thousands of miles of water. However, due to human-caused electronic interference, their entire way of life has been cut off. It’s the kind of thing that might even make a person feel ashamed of being human.

So with all this bad news, I was pleasantly surprised to read in the Boston Globe that due to the warm temperatures this past summer, the state of Maine has been experiencing much higher than normal sizes of lobster catches. Naturally, humans are ungrateful. The abundance of lobster has inspired Canadian lobstermen in New Brunswick to engage in protests for several days, blocking a highway to prevent US lobsters from being delivered to processing plants, out of fear that the surplus of lobster would drive the price down so low that it would destroy their livelihoods. A Canadian court ruled that this obstruction of capitalism was unlawful, so the Maine lobsters are now being successfully sold on the free market at the going price. If the Canadians continue to try to prevent US lobsters from being processed in Canada, it won’t be long before the US opens up more food processing plants.

While I understand that many Muslims don’t eat shellfish, and in my personal opinion, a lobster looks very much like a large, creepy insect; nevertheless lobster is a very healthy source of protein and fatty acids essential to hormone stability in humans. Lobster is considered a delicacy in most of the United States, with a lobster roll sandwich selling for as much as $21 in Boston. So I’m guessing that among lobster lovers, any price reduction would actually be quite welcome. According to the Boston Globe:

“If the catch turns out to be an aberration, memories of this year’s crisis will quickly fade. But there is fear in Maine that with climate change, the warmer waters that triggered the bumper crop could become a more regular occurrence. If that happens, lobstermen are going to have to adjust to fundamental changes in the fishery… Lobstermen in both countries need to recognize they are fishing from the same ocean and work toward a common solution.”

As the human population is running out of fish protein, God provided us with too much lobster. Sadly, the increase in lobster also correlates with decreasing numbers of lobsters’ natural enemies like sharks, stingrays, groupers, sea turtles and seals. Yet the whole situation made me think about how when God takes something away, He replaces it with something else. Sometimes, the replacement can be pricier than the original loss! Perhaps the increase in lobster meat will give humans some more time before we all starve, to figure out how to save the ocean’s larger sea animals.

As smart as they are, they don’t seem to have picked up on human speech yet, and do not know how to advertise themselves in order to promote their own self-interest, but the haunting sounds of ocean mammals have been recorded by humans. Captive dolphins and whales have gone way beyond their comfort zones to learn how to communicate with humans using sign language and have even learned how to follow instructions in exchange for food. Because dolphins in particular are so emotionally sensitive, child psychologists have been using them to reach out to those with special needs, including autistic children, who are so internally withdrawn that they do not talk. In many cases, scientists have found that befriending a marine animal is so delightful that it stimulates emotional reactions that can lead to amazing progress in otherwise uncommunicative individuals.
We live in a time when Allah allowed human beings to talk to the creatures of the sea. It is truly an electrifying time to be alive, but with this increased knowledge comes a heavy responsibility. If we don’t take care of the oceans, nobody else will. And that’s a fact that we have to really think about, because our fate is permanently linked with the fate of the earth’s creatures as well as the environment of our planet.

No comments: