Boston Solutions Incorporated
Chapter 30

Copyright© 2021 by Lazlo Zalezac

Magus looked around the conference room. Titus, seated next to him, was busy reading the report that the oceanographers had submitted. Calvin Dorfman sat at the end of the table looking seriously depressed. Dr. Donaldson, one of the lead scientists in this effort, sat beside Calvin shifting nervously in his chair. Leland Bowne, representing the Department of Agriculture, was reading the summary page of the report wondering how he was going to tell his superiors about the contents of it.

Magus asked, “Has everyone had a chance to read the preliminary final report on the declining catches for commercial fisherman?”

Everyone around the table with the exception of Leland nodded their heads. Leland was there to get briefed on the contents of the report. He expected to spend the next few days studying it.

“I guess we should start this briefing. Dr. Donaldson, would you mind summarizing your report for us?” Magus asked.

Dr. Donaldson said, “As you know, we were asked to study the quality of ocean water as a potential cause of decreasing commercial fishing harvests. For the past two years, we’ve been collecting data and analyzing it. The conclusion we’ve reached is that the situation is worse than we thought. The fish populations are declining at an alarming rate.”

“That’s not good news,” Leland said.

Dr. Donaldson said, “One of the initial premises was that a part of the problem concerned water quality. In particular, a lack of nutrients. We took water samples over a full year period of time. The water samples confirmed something that we already believed.”

“What is that?” Leland asked.

“Water quality is part of the problem,” Dr. Donaldson answered.

Leland asked, “In what way?”

“The distribution of appropriate nutrients in ocean waters is bad,” Dr. Donaldson answered. He knew that bad wasn’t exactly a scientific term, but it described the situation remarkably well. “There are several maps of the distribution in the report.”

“So we go with the fertilizer approach,” Leland said.

“The idea of fertilizing the ocean to improve fish stock was interesting and it can be done,” Dr. Donaldson said looking over at Magus. “In fact, it has been done out in the Pacific Ocean with promising results. However, that won’t solve the problem.”

Holding up the report, Titus said, “It says here that fertilizers are part of the problem.”

Dr. Donaldson said, “It is actually a matter of distribution. Normally, nutrients are leached from the soil as a result of rain. They are washed out to the ocean waters via streams and rivers. Those nutrients feed one celled organisms in the bays and ocean areas near land. Those organisms are then consumed by the multi-celled life. Basically, the fish eat them.

“Unfortunately, the widespread use of nitrogen based fertilizers has overwhelmed the ability of the Eco-system to process it. In the same way that over fertilizing a field can burn out crops, the over abundance of nutrients has burned out the bay ecology.”

“What can be done?” Leland asked.

“One necessary step in allowing the fish population to recover is to limit use of fertilizers in commercial farms,” Titus said.

Leland said, “That’s going to be hard to sell.”

“It gets worse,” Calvin said.

“How much worse?” Leland asked.

Dr. Donaldson said, “It will take at least two generations for the fish stocks to recover to a point that can sustain substantive harvesting.”

“What does that mean?” Leland asked.

“It means that we are going to have to have a twelve year moratorium on commercial fishing,” Calvin said.

Dr. Donaldson said, “That’s not quite true. We’ll still be able to harvest fish, but it will have to be at a level of about twenty percent of current catches.”

“That’s going to put a lot of fisherman out of business,” Calvin said feeling depressed. He had come to Magus to save his business only to learn that it was going to be impossible.

Titus said, “Don’t forget those are international waters. You can’t control them.”

Calvin said, “They can control what we bring to the dock.”

“That’s true,” Magus said.

Leland said, “There’s no way I can sell a ban on fertilizers and greater restrictions on commercial fishing.”

Magus stared at the tabletop for a bit. He said, “Don’t worry about that.”

“Why?” Leland asked.

“I’ve been hired to solve the problem. Now that the full extent of the problem is known, I can start coming up with a solution,” Magus said.

“I just told you the solution,” Calvin said looking at Magus with confusion.

“No. You told me of a solution to one aspect of the problem,” Magus said.

Titus said, “A solution that puts a billion dollar industry out of commission, and impacts almost every aspect of agriculture; does not solve a problem, it creates problems. Solutions Incorporated does not solve problems by creating more problems.”

“Running out of fish is a worse problem,” Calvin said.

“The politicians in Washington aren’t going to be happy,” Leland said.

Magus said, “You’re going to have to return to Washington so that you’ll be in a position to put into place a solution to this problem.”

“I guess so,” Leland said.

“I imagine you’ll be moving your wife there,” Magus said.

“Yes,” Leland answered.

Titus said, “We’ll miss Irene.”

“She’ll miss working here,” Leland said.

Magus said, “Get her pregnant and she’ll forget all about us. Your mother and father have been wondering when they’ll be grandparents.”

“I talked to my father the other night. He sends his regards,” Leland said.

Smiling, Magus said, “I didn’t realize that he was back from his sixteenth expedition to find the Lost Aztec City of Gold.”

“You are just as sick as he is,” Leland said.

“Thank you,” Magus said.

“I guess I better go and read this report,” Leland said looking down at the massive document. A lot of work had gone into its production.

“Okay,” Magus said. He rose to show Leland out of the office.

Calvin rose to leave after Leland left the room, but Titus said, “Stay here a bit, Calvin. We’ve got some more business to discuss when Magus returns.”

“I guess I can stay,” Calvin said.

He was not happy with the results of their research. He had not been aware of the full extent of the problem until looking over the data for the past years catches. A number of fisherman had already gone out of business. Their absence had eased the pressures on those that remained, but it wasn’t enough. His whole industry was about to collapse and he could see nothing to stop it from happening.

 
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