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Article: The New Yorker on the social effects of overfishing

A fascinating article at the New Yorker reminds us that everything is connected, and that plundering the ocean may have an effect on more than just the ocean.

In short, overfishing of the waters off Ghana has led the country’s population to seek an alternative food source by hunting in the forests, shooting the wild animals there for bushmeat. As the number of large mammals declines, baboon populations increase unchecked, and parents keep their children home from school to guard crops and homes against packs of marauding, raiding baboons. The ultimate result of overfishing in Ghana is a cohort of under-educated children; in other countries it may be human trafficking, child slavery and other grave social ills.

This causal chain from the health of ocean fisheries to educational success was so straightforward that Brashares initially didn’t believe it. “I thought, ‘Oh, that’s interesting, but these uninformed people aren’t aware of some bigger dynamic,’” Brashares told me. “Of course, they were right all along.” With the Ghanaian park data and extensive surveys of twelve Ghanaian markets over several years, Brashares and his colleagues eventually showed that when fish populations were low, fish prices were high, and bushmeat hunting increased, a relationship that was especially strong near the coast. Other researchers documented similar patterns elsewhere in Africa and in South America, further proving what Ghanaian farmers already knew: wildlife declines aren’t only a result of social ills but also a cause.

Read the article here. A journal article on the findings was published in Science.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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