Team of Ecologists Estimate That We Could See Salt-Water Fish Extinction In Just Over 30 Years
After analyzing several different kinds of data relating to biodiversity, researchers have stated that overfishing, pollution, and habitat loss will be responsible for a loss of most ocean species by 2048.
That’s when the world’s oceans will be empty of most fish, predicted an international team of ecologists and economists.
The study by Boris Worm, PhD, of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, — with colleagues in the U.K., U.S., Sweden, and Panama — was an effort to understand what this loss of ocean species might mean to the world.
Even to these ecology-minded scientists, the results were an unpleasant surprise.
“I was shocked and disturbed by how consistent these trends are — beyond anything we suspected,” Worm says in a news release.
“This isn’t predicted to happen. This is happening now,” study researcher Nicola Beaumont, PhD, of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, U.K., says in a news release.
“If biodiversity continues to decline, the marine environment will not be able to sustain our way of life. Indeed, it may not be able to sustain our lives at all,” Beaumont adds.
Large Fisheries Are a Contributor
Fisheries directly or indirectly affect the livelihood of over 500 million people all over the world. However, overfishing including the taking of fish beyond sustainable levels is reducing fish stock and employment in
many world regions.
This will continue globally until sufficient species depopulation curbs human behavior to feed mass markets for profits.
Few people realize how efficient these freezer trawlers are at fully processing fish to customer specifications. They process fish into fillets within hours of being caught. Some can process more than 300 tonnes of fish a day and can store more than 6,000 tons of graded and frozen catch.
Operations such as this facilitate species depopulation due to overfishing and encouraging habitat loss. This is the mass market fishing industry which serves 90% of the major grocery retail sector.
NOAA oversees marine (or saltwater) fishing activities, but freshwater fisheries and fish hatcheries are another story entirely. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is in charge of authorizing fish hatcheries in the U.S. The department oversees 70 national fish hatcheries in the United States. Every state has its own fishery office to oversee and regulate fishing in that state’s lakes and rivers.
Wild fisheries around the world are in danger of deteriorating for many reasons, including damage from pollution, environmental disasters and climate change. But the biggest threat to many fisheries comes from overfishing.
According to the NOAA’s report to Congress, the organization had enough data to determine the overfishing status of 244 different fish stocks. Of those, the NOAA said 41 are being overfished and 203 are fished responsibly. But the NOAA doesn’t have enough data to determine the status of 284 other fish stocks.
It’s important to remember that most commercial fishermen want to avoid overfishing as much as environmentalists do. They rely upon fish stocks to make their living. But the cycle of overfishing is self-perpetuating.
Edible Fish Declining In Mass Numbers
With increasing pollution and radiation levels off the charts in our oceans, wild fish are becoming as hazardous to our health as factory farmed meat.
Many species are so high in contaminants like mercury that their health benefits are outweighed by their health risks. Others are flown in from halfway around the world, but given labels that make you think they were caught fresh earlier that morning.
Just two years ago a Purdue University scientist urged federal officials to decide favorably on allowing genetically engineered salmon into the food supply arguing that not doing so may set back scientific efforts to increase food production. The argument came in direct contradiction to statements made by the same scientist who found that releasing a transgenic fish to the wild could damage native populations even to the point of extinction.
Already, 29% of edible fish and seafood species have declined by 90% — a drop that means the collapse of these fisheries.
But the issue isn’t just having seafood on our plates. Ocean species filter toxins from the water. They protect shorelines. And they reduce the risks of algae blooms such as the red tide.
“A large and increasing proportion of our population lives close to the coast; thus the loss of services such as flood control and waste detoxification can have disastrous consequences,” Worm and colleagues say.
Researchers Analyzed Data From Large Marine Ecosystems
The researchers analyzed data from 32 experiments on different marine environments.
They then analyzed the 1,000-year history of 12 coastal regions around the world, including San Francisco and Chesapeake bays in the U.S., and the Adriatic, Baltic, and North seas in Europe.
Next, they analyzed fishery data from 64 large marine ecosystems.
And finally, they looked at the recovery of 48 protected ocean areas.
Their bottom line: Everything that lives in the ocean is important. The diversity of ocean life is the key to its survival. The areas of the ocean with the most different kinds of life are the healthiest.
But the loss of species isn’t gradual. It’s happening fast — and getting faster, the researchers say.
Worm and colleagues call for sustainable fisheries management, pollution control, habitat maintenance, and the creation of more ocean reserves.
This, they say, isn’t a cost; it’s an investment that will pay off in lower insurance costs, a sustainable fish industry, fewer natural disasters, human health, and more.
“It’s not too late. We can turn this around,” Worm says. “But less than 1% of the global ocean is effectively protected right now.”
If you must eat fish, buy line caught to encourage that fish have been caught using sustainable traditional fishing methods using hook and line. This method has minimal environmental impact and as all fish are caught live it ensures the fish are in top condition before being stored in ice.
About the Author
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.
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