There is a looming crisis in fisheries. Most experts agree that capture fisheries around the world have reached or exceeded sustainable limits. As a result, despite increased fishing effort and more effective equipment, total catch levels have remained stable or decreased every year since the mid-1990s. In 2004, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that 75% of the world’s fisheries were overfished, threatened or fully exploited.
Today's edition of Science published the most disturbing report yet. According to a meta-analysis study done by a team of researchers from the US and Canada, marine fish stocks are in more immediate jeopardy than has been previously reported. The research team, led by Boris Worms from Dalhousie University, concluded that the rate of fishery resource collapse is accelerating, and is undermining the stability of marine ecosystems as a whole, as well as negatively affecting water quality. Their analysis indicates that at current rates of diversity loss, there will be no more viable fish or invertebrate species available to fisheries by 2050.
2050 is the same year that world population is expected to reach 9 billion! Read together, these trends are extremely ominous--at the very moment that more and more people will need to turn to fish as a primary food source, fish stocks will be collapsing. Not only are the potential environmental consequences horrible, but so are the immediate human costs. Fish provides almost half the world's population (2.6 billion people) with at least 20 percent of their protein. The world already suffers from growing food insecurity, with 823 million people chronically malnourished. Despite World Food Summit and UN Millenium Development Goal commitments to halve the number of undernourished people by 2015, the trends look extremely discouraging.
The myth of plenty--that there is always another fish in the sea--is destroying the ocean.