In November 2006, Washington
Post writer Juliet Eilperin headlined, " World's Fish Supply Running
Out, Researchers Warn," saying:
International ecologists and economists believe "the world will run
out of seafood by 2048" if current fishing rates continue.
A journal Science study "conclude(d) that overfishing, pollution and
other environmental factors are wiping out important species" globally.
They're also impeding world oceans' ability to produce seafood, filter
nutrients, and resist disease.
Marine biologist Boris Worm warned:
"We really see the end of the line now. It's within our lifetime. Our
children will see a world without seafood if we don't change things."
Researchers studied fish populations, catch records, and ocean ecosystems
for four years. By 2003, 29% of all species collapsed. It means they're
at least "90% below their historic maximum catch levels."
In recent years, collapse rates accelerated. In 1980, 13.5% of 1,736
fish species collapsed. Today, 7,784 species are harvested.
According to Worm, "It's like hitting the gas pedal and holding it down
at a constant level. The rate accelerates over time."
Oregon State University marine biologist Jane Lubchenco said the study
shows fish stocks are in trouble. "I think people don't get it," she
said. "If there is a problem with the oceans, how come the case in my
grocery store is so full? There is a disconnect."
National Environmental Trust vice president Gerald Leape said "This
should be a wake-up call to our leaders, both internationally and domestically,
that they need to protect our fish stocks. Otherwise they will go away."
Researchers conducted dozens of controlled experiments. They also examined
UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) worldwide catch data since
1950 and ecosystem records. They include sediment cores and archival
data going back a 1,000 years.
They said losing so many species is eroding marine ecosystem viability
and their ability to resist environmental stresses.
"In 12 marine ecosystems surveyed, they found that a decline in biodiversity
of 50 percent or more cut the number of viable fisheries by 33 percent,
reduced nursery habitats by 69 percent and cut the ocean's capacity
to filter and detoxify contaminants by 63 percent."
For example, Chesapeake Bay oyster fishing collapsed. The whole ecosystem
was affecte. In 1980, oyster supplies filtered bay water in three days.
In 1988, remaining supplies took over a year.
Marine Ecology Professor Hunter Lenihan said mass dredging oysters over
the past century transformed the ecosystem. As supplies declined, water
got more cloudy, and sea grass beds dependent on light died off. Phytoplankton
replaced them. It doesn't support the same range of species.
"When you remove the oysters through overfishing, that's when you begin
to see a rapid decline in water quality," said Lenihan. "What it's done
is change the entire production of the bay."
Worm believes it's not too late to change things, provided measures
are taken soon. So far, however, overfishing continues.
On September 7, 2011, Field and Stream writer Chad Love headlined, "Scientists:
Industrial-Scale Deep-Sea Fishing Depleting Oceans," saying:
A Marine Policy scientific journal paper says deep sea industrial fishing
should be banned. Productive areas were targeted sequentially. As a
result, fish species were depleted and deep-sea corals destroyed. Then
new areas are targeted.
As a result, the ocean's now "a watery desert." Popular species were
overfished, "only to crash in a matter of years." Marine Conservation
Institute president Elliot Norse said deep-sea fishing flourished "out
of desperation," not realizing stocks there take much longer to recover.
Vessels use Global Positioning Systems and trawlers. They scrape large
metal plates across sea bottom areas. From 1960 - 2004, catches increased
seven-fold, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Mean depth fishing more than tripled since the 1950s from 492 feet to
1,706 in 2004, according to Unversity of the Azores Department of Oceanography
and Fisheries' Telmo Morato.
Fishing subsidies sustain the practice. Annually, high-seas trawlers
get about $162 million. It's about one-fourth of catch value at taxpayer
On September 7, 2011, Science Daily headlined, "Deep Sea Fish in Deep
Trouble: Scientists Find Nearly All Deep-Sea Fisheries Unsustainable,"
Leading marine scientists recommend ending most deep sea commercial
fishing. With rare exceptions, "deep-sea fisheries are unsustainable....When
bottom trawlers rip life from the depths, animals adapted to life (there)
can't repopulate on human time scales. Powerful fishing technologies
are overwhelming them."
As coastal fisheries got overexploited, commercial fleets moved further
offshore into deep waters. The effects on local species are devastating.
Globally, deep-sea fishes are collapsing, including sharks and orange
roughy. Fishing outside 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zones prevent effective
Oceana is the largest international ocean conservation and advocacy
organization. It works to protect and restore world oceans. In 2008,
it published a report titled, "Too Few Fish: A Regional Assessment of
the World's Fisheries," saying:
Decades of overfishing depleted ocean food sources. Hidden reserves
are disappearing. Scientists warn "of impending collapses in fish populations
within decades." New environmental stresses hasten the outcome. The
UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says:
"The maximum long-term potential of the world marine capture fisheries
has been reached." It's all downhill ahead. FAO assessed 584 fish stocks
and species globally. More than three-fourths are fully exploited, overexploited,
depleted or recovering.
As a result, expanded commercial fishing can't be sustained. Only 17%
of world fisheries have potential for higher catches. In six FAO regions,
accounting for half the global catch in 2005, "at least 85% of stocks
are already fully fished or overfished."
Moreover, in Western Central Atlantic, Northeast Atlantic, Eastern Central
Atlantic, and Western Indian Ocean, "more than 95% of fish stocks cannot
sustain any further expansion of fishing."
Nonetheless, governments keep subsidizing biologically unsustainable
practices. Doing so adversely impacts ecosystems, food security and
Oceana said depleting fish stocks "violates the basic conservation requirement
of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea as well as every tenet
of sustainable development."
Doing so also ignores 1995 FAO Code of Responsible Fisheries principles
and management provisions. Stopping this plunder is essential. Evidence
shows maximum potential was reached.
In 2005, 83.7 million metric tons (MT) were caught, 1.7 million MT lower
than 2004 and down 4% from 2000 levels. Declines were greatest in the
Northeast Atlantic, Western Central Atlantic, and Southwest Atlantic.
They ranged from 13 - 20%.
Nine of the top 10 marine capture species can't withstand further exploitation.
They account for 30% of total world fishing. They include Peruvian anchoveta,
Alaska pollack, Japanese anchovy, blue whiting, capelin and Atlantic
herring, and yellowfin tuna. Other troubled species include the largehead
hairtail and skipjack tuna.
Notably, industrial fishing removed 90% of large predatory fish populations,
including sharks, tuna and marlin. In the past 30 years, North Atlantic
stocks of bull, dusky, and smooth hammerhead sharks declined up to 99%.
Other predator fish losses, including groundfish, altered the composition
of remaining catches. Declines in Northwest Atlantic bottom dwelling
fishes increased mollusk and crustacean catches.
In 1989, yields peaked at about 90 million tons annually. Since then,
they declined or stagnated. Valued species like bluefin tuna, orange
roughy and Chilean sea bass collapsed.
Overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction, and acidification produced
systemic ecological destruction. As a result, world oceans and valuable
food stocks hang in the balance.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge
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