Will the oceans run out of edible fish in our lifetimes? Maybe not, according to a new study.
In 2006, a team of scientists led by Boris Worm in Halifax, Nova Scotia, made an alarming prediction: Overfishing was causing saltwater fish populations to collapse at such a rate that we could see the end of seafood by the year 2048. Because more than one billion people worldwide rely on seafood as a primary source of protein, and about 43.5 million people worldwide work in the fishing and seafood industries, this was a potential global food and economic crisis in the making.
Now, a collaborative effort on behalf of scientists on two sides of the issue -- both marine ecologists, who work for conservation, and fisheries management scientists, who work to find a way to safely harvest natural resources from the sea -- has shown that the prediction is a worst-case scenario and not a given. By taking action now, we can ensure a future for fish populations. According to an article in last Thursday's New York Times:
In the end, the scientists concluded that 63 percent of saltwater fish stocks had been depleted “below what we think of as a target range,” Dr. Worm said.
But they also agreed that fish in well-managed areas, including the United States, were recovering or doing well. They wrote that management techniques like closing some areas to fishing, restricting the use of certain fishing gear or allocating shares of the catch to individual fishermen, communities or others could allow depleted fish stocks to rebound.
The researchers suggest that a calculation of how many fish in a given species can be caught in a given region without threatening the stock, called maximum sustainable yield, is less useful than a standard that takes into account the health of the wider marine environment. They also agreed that solutions did not lie only in management techniques but also in the political will to apply them, even if they initially caused economic disruption.
Now that we've heard the warning, it's as though we've been given a second chance. Can we create a globally palatable standard for managing the world's fish -- and, more to the point, the world's oceans?
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Image: Creative Commons
I'd like to recommend "The End of the Line" which is a very well balanced, informative film. It seems to cover every aspect of the problem of overfishing imaginable, and it gives you things to do about it at the end! (It is based on a book of the same name).
A review of the film at the LA times: http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jun/12/entertainment/et-cause12
I think the most important part of this article is the statement "By taking action now, we can ensure a future for fish populations" with the key words "taking action NOW." And there are ways to help immediately! Check out Christopher Swain--he's swimming 1,000 miles in the Atlantic to promote ocean/aquatic species health. http://www.changents.com/christopherswain You can do your part by becoming involved with him.