Brad Plumer with the Washington Post reports on the incredible decimation of the world’s fish populations, and features stunning information from Daniel Pauly, a professor of fisheries at the University of British Columbia, who sums up the situation as “Aquacalypse Now, The End of Fish”
According to the World Wildlife Fund’s 2012 “Living Planet Report”(PDF), between 1950 and 2006, the world’s annual fishing haul more than quadrupled, from 19 million tons to 87 million tons.
New deep-sea trawling technology has enabled the fishing industry to harvest fish in areas that were previously inaccessible, which has exhausted great ocean expanses of fish stocks.
Professor Pauly notes that in the past 50 years, the populations of many large commercial fish such as bluefin tuna and cod have utterly collapsed, in some cases shrinking more than 90 percent (see chart).
Professor Pauly equates the industrialized and massive commercial plundering of fish from our oceans with a giant Ponzi scheme waged with Bernie Madoff”like callousness by the world’s fisheries.
“Beginning in the 1950s, as their operations became increasingly industrialized–with onboard refrigeration, acoustic fish-finders, and, later, GPS–they first depleted stocks of cod, hake, flounder, sole, and halibut in the Northern Hemisphere,” writes Professor Pauly.
“As those stocks disappeared, the fleets moved southward, to the coasts of developing nations and, ultimately, all the way to the shores of Antarctica, searching for icefishes and rockcods, and, more recently, for small, shrimplike krill.”
Plumer suggests there’s evidence we’ve already hit “peak fish”, and claims world fish production reached its apogee in the late 1980s — at 90 million tons per year — when the global catch surpassed current levels.
Professor Pauly warns readers that it’s not just the future of the fishing industry that is at stake, but also the continued health of the world’s largest ecosystem, and claims even those who profess great environmental consciousness, continue to eat fish as if it were a sustainable practice.
The Professor cites one study in the journal Science, that concludes commercial fish stocks are on pace for total “collapse”by 2048.
“Species have been disappearing from ocean ecosystems and this trend has recently been accelerating,” said lead author Boris Worm, an assistant professor of marine conservation biology at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada.
“Now we begin to see some of the consequences. For example, if the long-term trend continues, all fish and seafood species are projected to collapse within my lifetime — by 2048.”
One reason official government agencies aren’t warning the public about the alarming global decline in fish stocks is that fish biologists who work for federal agencies, or as consultants to the fishing industry, have pledged their allegiance to their employer.
Because just as the FDA and USDA serve the interests of agribusiness and biotech companies, NOAA and other federal government agencies serve the interests of huge commercial fishing operations, ocean freight operations, and oil companies like BP, who have destroyed the fishing industry in the Gulf Of Mexico.
To Western nations, dwindling global fish supplies may represent a culinary nightmare, but as the Professor points out, for 400 million people in developing nations, fish are the main source of animal protein, and a major source of livelihood for hundreds of millions of people.