- LOS ANGELES (AP -- Nations must take dramatic steps to head off a collapse
of global fish populations that are being severely depleted by overfishing,
a new report by a national panel of scientists warns.
- "The future of fisheries depends
on radically changing our attitudes, practices and policies about fishing,"
said panel member Jane Lubchenco, a marine ecologist at Oregon State University.
- The volume of fish caught has reached
or exceeded levels that can be sustained by the world's oceans, said the
report, "Sustaining Marine Fisheries," released Thursday by the
25-member committee, led by biologist Harold Mooney of Stanford University.
- The study was funded by Washington D.C.-based
National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences,
a private, nonprofit institution.
- "Within five years, we're going
to see big changes (in fish populations) on our coast," said panel
member Tom Powell, a University of California at Berkeley biologist. "We're
going to be pretty sorry if we don't take action now."
- Studies by federal fishery agencies have
found that up to 80 percent of commercial fish species in the United States
and more than a third worldwide are fully exploited or overfished.
- The panel, made up of biologists, economists
and fishing industry representatives, cited those findings in their report,
which calls for reducing fish catches and repairing marine ecosystems.
- About 84 million metric tons of fish
and other seafood are caught annually in marine ecosystems worldwide, worth
about $3.5 billion a year in the United States alone.
- "The sea was long viewed as an inexhaustible
supply of protein for human use. But recently ... it has become increasingly
clear that the ocean's resources are not inexhaustible," the report
- The once common Atlantic halibut are
now rare. Orange roughy off New Zealand have declined substantially. Bluefin
tuna, rockfish, herring, shrimp, sturgeon, oysters, shark, Atlantic salmon
and American shad are depleted because of overfishing.
- Some species have declined so seriously
that once-thriving commercial fisheries have been shut down, including
cod off Newfoundland, ground fish such as haddock and yellowtail flounder
off New England, and some salmon in the Pacific Northwest.
- Overcapacity in the fishing industry
is widespread, largely because of policies that encourage unrestricted
competition on the open seas, the panel said.
- In Alaska, for example, the Pacific Fishery
Management Council has estimated that the fishing fleet is 2 1/2 times
the size necessary to catch the available resources.
- The report said that assigning fishing
rights or quotas that can be traded is one way of reducing overcapacity.
- Marine refuges -- areas where fishing
or capturing marine species is illegal -- are an effective but undervalued
tool for keeping stocks healthy, the scientists said.
- Commercial fishing groups agree that
problems with many fisheries, including overfishing, are so serious that
they threaten to make their profession go extinct.
- "In some fisheries there's just
too many vessels and we're going to have to figure out ways ... to retire
them," said Zeke Grader of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's