Meaning of YEAR IN REVIEW 1997: AGRICULTURE in English

YEAR IN REVIEW 1997: AGRICULTURE

FISHERIES According to the latest figures released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 1994 produced the highest-ever world fish catch, a 7.3 million-metric ton increase over the 1993 total, to reach a staggering 109.6 million metric tons. (See World Fisheries Table.) Fish for human consumption rose from 72.9 million metric tons in 1993 to 74.8 million in 1994 and for nonhuman consumption increased from 29.3 million metric tons in 1993 to 34.7 million in 1994. The South Americans were taking advantage of the bumper numbers of anchoveta available while they could, since these stocks can fluctuate widely depending on the prevailing conditions caused by El Nio. With the anchoveta catch reaching 11.9 million metric tons, it came close to approaching the record haul of 13 million metric tons caught during 1970. Alaska pollock finished second again, but third-place Chilean jack mackerel recorded its highest catch ever, with 4.3 million metric tons. (For Top 10 Species Landed, see Table.) The most interesting aspect of these catch statistics was the precautionary note sounded by the FAO, which reiterated its previous warnings that despite the increases shown, the majority of the species that were subject to fishing were either fully or overly exploited. The FAO also commented that the potential for additional increases in the catch yields in the long term was extremely limited; indeed, preliminary figures for 1995 revealed that the catch had already taken a downward turn. With a record total of 20,720,000 metric tons, China in 1994 again topped the list of fish-producing nations. Increases in the production of farmed fish (aquaculture), especially varieties of carp, accounted for most of the 3.2 million-metric ton gain over 1993. China also increased its catch of such wild species as largehead hairtails, scad, and filefishes. Along with the larger catch of anchoveta, Peru increased its catch of South American pilchard by 450,000 metric tons, while Chile's catch of Chilean horse mackerel rose by 810,000 metric tons. Two major fishing nations again recorded declines in catch during 1994. While remaining the world's largest tuna-catching nation by landing 710,000 metric tons of tuna during 1994, Japan suffered a reduction of 770,000 metric tons in its total catch, mainly owing to reduced landings of Japanese pilchard and skipjack tuna. Russia also recorded a decline in catch from 4.5 million metric tons in 1993 to 3.8 million metric tons in 1994. More than half of the decrease was due to reductions in the catch of Alaska pollock. Another large step forward in obtaining consensus in the utilization of the world's fisheries was completed in October 1995 with the final agreement and adoption of a Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. The code, which was voluntary, established 10 main objectives, the first and foremost of which was to establish principles, in accordance with the relevant rules of international law, for responsible fishing and fisheries activities, taking into account all relevant biological, technical, economic, social, environmental, and commercial aspects. Prevention of overfishing by the implementation of sound management strategies was emphasized. A significant area of concern during the year was bycatch and the implementation of selective and environmentally safe fishing gear and practices. Bycatch are fish caught unintentionally during fishing operations. This was a particular problem with trawling, especially shrimp trawling; large-scale gillnetting; and some purse seine and longline fisheries. Most commercial fishing operations were governed by some form of quota system that allowed fishing vessels to catch and, more important, to land a certain amount of a particular species that were above a certain agreed-upon minimum size. If fish were caught for which a vessel did not have a license or that might be under the minimum size, this bycatch was traditionally dumped back into the sea. Recent studies of bycatch published by the FAO found that up to 27 million metric tons of fish might be destroyed in this way every year. This was more than a quarter of the world's total marine catch. If serious efforts were made to control the dumping of fish at sea and to utilize the bycatch for human consumption, potentially significant increases in the availability of fish for human consumption could be made without any additional pressure on fish stocks. Several countries, including Canada, Mexico, and Norway, implemented policies to promote the use of fishing methods that would reduce the amount of bycatch. One method that was gaining in popularity was the use of escape panels and grates incorporated into trawl nets just ahead of the cod end of the net; these allowed the escape of undersized fish and/or nontargeted species. An example of this type of device was the Nordmore grate, which was used off eastern Canada and in Norway to reduce groundfish (such as cod, flounder, and haddock) bycatch in fisheries that used small mesh trawls; these included fisheries for shrimp and silver hake. Studies revealed that bycatch could be reduced to 1-2% of the catch with the use of such devices. Since 1992 fishermen in Newfoundland had faced a moratorium on the catching of cod and other groundfish species for either commercial or recreational purposes. The devastation of the Grand Banks cod had been caused by a combination of environmental changes and years of overfishing by Canadian and foreign fleets, and it had a profoundly depressing effect on fishing communities in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. During September, however, the Canadian government felt confident enough to open the cod fishery for a brief experimental period during two weekends for food fishers only. The results of this short reopening plus indications that the cod stocks were beginning to recover brought hope that the reopening of the cod fishery on a larger but tightly regulated scale might at least be within the foreseeable future. (MARTIN J. GILL) This article updates commercial fishing. FOOD PROCESSING Consumers in the developed countries became increasingly willing in 1996 to take ethical and environmental issues into account when purchasing food, placing a greater emphasis on health. Such considerations and the scare over bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or "mad cow" disease) and its possible link to human disease generated a swing to meat substitutes and vegetarian foods, although the number of true vegetarians rose very little. Processed ready-to-eat meals and convenience foods experienced accelerated growth. Consumption of bread and canned foods continued to decline, while that of breakfast cereals, bakery products other than bread, soft drinks, snack foods, and frozen, chilled, and fresh products increased. Dietary fibre was back in favour. Interest grew, particularly in Japan, in "functional foods," said to offer protection against chronic degenerative diseases. Examples included cherry juice that enhances the growth of beneficial digestive bacteria and a nonfat milk containing oat flour that may lower cholesterol levels in many people. Additional scientific evidence of the health benefits of fish oils was presented. Some two-thirds of shoppers looked for the date of expiration mark on food packages, whenever it was available, and about half scanned the lists of ingredients. Senior citizens placed greater importance on food-safety advice and manufacturers' instructions; teenagers and young adults were six times more likely to suffer food poisoning than were the elderly. Food poisoning did not abate; major outbreaks in Australia originating from contaminated peanut butter and meat products damaged public confidence. Apple juice, salami, and cheese were implicated in outbreaks in the U.K., where more than 30% of poultry was estimated to carry salmonella, the most common food-poisoning organism. In Scotland's worst-ever outbreak, E. coli-contaminated cooked meat killed 15. Radish sprouts were suspected at least in part as the cause of an outbreak in Japan that killed 11 and sickened some 9,000. Despite worldwide concern about BSE, in the U.K., where the problem originated, very few deaths were attributed to consumption of a BSE-contaminated meat product. Supermarket chains in Europe and the U.S. experienced a spate of product tampering. Manufacturers responded by increasing the production of tamper-proof packaging. Anthropology and Archaeology Another specimen of the Western Hemisphere primate Branisella dating from the late Oligocene or early Miocene Epoch, about 23.7 million years ago, was found in 1996. It was an important discovery because fossils of New World primates are rare and because analysis revealed that it is probably ancestral to the callitrichines (marmosets) but not to all the platyrrhines. The latter group, which includes the marmosets and comprises the diverse majority of the Central and South American monkeys today, must have undergone an explosive radiation during the early to middle Oligocene, presumably on their arrival from Africa. A new anthropoid fossil, Eosimias, dated at about 40 million years ago, was found during the year in China. It could provide evidence that the very early evolution of the higher primates occurred in Asia as well as in Africa. Another new fossil discovery shed some light on the time that apes stopped walking about like monkeys. A Dryopithecus from the Miocene in Spain, it consists of both cranial and postcranial bones, which indicate that by at least 9.5 million years ago these apes were not generalized quadrupeds but were moving about in a manner similar to the modern orangutan. Also, in central Turkey a find of an almost complete face of a 10 million-year-old ape, Ankarapithecus meteai, was found. Because of its unique features, it is not considered to be ancestral to any apes or humans and is another example of the Miocene radiation of the apes during the period from 18 million to 9 million years ago. Also uncovered during the year was new evidence about the nonlinear evolution of bipedalism. At Sterkfontein, S.Af., researchers found the most complete australopithecine fossil skeleton since "Lucy"--that of an individual with a humanlike pelvis but with limb proportions similar to those of a modern chimpanzee. Thus, it may have spent time both walking on the ground and climbing in the trees. It was identified as an Australopithecus africanus by Phillip Tobias of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, S.Af. Also, an australopithecine fossil was discovered outside the Rift Valley system in Chad, some 2,400 km (1,500 mi) to the west. The site was dated at 3 million-3.5 million years, and the fossil resembles A. afarensis. The "savanna hypothesis"--that bipedalism evolved when the tropical forest became replaced by open grassland--may be too simplistic. Paleoclimatologists agree that there was a major climatic change about 2.8 million years ago that resulted in more open land and less tropical forest. This, however, is considerably later than the appearance of the first bipeds, though it may coincide with the origin of the genus Homo. In November a team of Canadian, Ethiopian, Israeli, and U.S. scientists announced the discovery in northern Ethiopia of an upper jaw described as the oldest and most convincing definitively dated fossil of the genus Homo. The jaw, dated at 2,330,000 years, was 400,000 years older than any previously found Homo fossil. Longgupo Cave in Sichuan province, China, yielded evidence of hominids that existed from 1.7 million to 1.9 million years ago. The fossils may be those of Homo habilis, which raises the possibility that it was this form of early human that migrated out of Africa and then gave rise to H. erectus in Asia as well as Africa. Possibly equally early finds of not yet fully described hominids from Atapuerca, Spain, may indicate that these "pre-erectus" forms migrated to the west out of Africa, possibly by way of the Middle East. New Neanderthal remains were found at Arcy-sur-Cure, Fr. There, a temporal bone with the distinctive anatomy of the Neanderthal inner ear was discovered in the archaeological context of the early Upper Paleolithic Chtelperronian industry; the bone was dated at 34,000 years ago. This provided further evidence for the long coexistence and possible cultural interactions of the Neanderthals and modern humans. Yet coexistence probably did not result in similarity in lifestyles or exploitation of the environment. According to Erik Trinkhaus of the University of New Mexico and Christopher Ruff of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md., in Israel, where there was a long coexistence, the Neanderthals are anatomically different enough to indicate adaptations to the environment that differed from those of their modern human counterparts, even if they were using some of the same tools. Theories about the peopling of the Western Hemisphere have depended heavily on the analysis of linguistic, archaeological, and genetic evidence. The main questions continued to be the time and numbers of migrations. A site in Brazil indicated occupation by forest-living foragers 11,000 years ago, which would make them contemporary but culturally different from the Clovis culture mammoth hunters 8,000 km (5,000 mi) to the north. Also, analyses of new DNA and mitochondrial DNA data suggest that the genetic variation in the geographically widespread groups of native Americans is compatible with one, or possibly two, Asian migrations. Current studies of the noncoding part of the Y chromosome (the equivalent of mtDNA for inheritance in the male line) may reveal more on the relationships between the native people in the Americas. (HERMANN K. BLEIBTREU)

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