There Won’t Always Be More Fish In the Sea

Imagine that. Everyone is so used to hearing the opposite that it may be hard to believe such a thing could ever be possible.

A recent Newsweek article states that the ocean has changed more in the last 30 years than in all of human history beforehand. In most places, the seas have lost upwards of 75 percent of their large animals such as whales, dolphins, sharks, rays, and turtles.

An adult female bottlenose dolphin with her yo...

An adult female bottlenose dolphin with her young, Moray Firth, Scotland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Atlantic cod, Cape Cod’s namesake, were once plentiful in the North Atlantic. They’ve declined by about 95 percent and are now labled as vulnerable on the threatened species list. Bluefin tuna are also at critically low levels. The Newsweek article by Callum Roberts (excerpted from his book The Ocean of Life), illustrates the decline with a series of photographs taken by a Key West recreational fishing company. The first one from the 1950s shows people dwarfed and surrounded by huge grouper and shark catches. The average catch was 44 lbs. By the 1980s, the fish are noticeably smaller. Groupers and sharks give way to snappers and the average catch is 20 lbs. In 2007, the average catch was 5 lbs. and the size of Key West’s fish had decreased by 88 percent.

Overfishing is only part of the problem. The oceans have absorbed about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide released by human activity since pre-industrial times. If carbon-dioxide emissions continue at the same levels, ocean acidity is expected to rise 150 percent by 2050. Fertilizer and sewage runoff, along with rising temperatures, have created dead zones or low-oxygen areas where few species can survive. Predictions are that by 2050 there may be no more fish left in the sea. By then, the human population is expected to reach nine billion.

A World Bank report determined major fish stocks would produce 40 percent more if we fished them less. By eating large predators like swordfish or tuna, we disrupt the ocean food chain. These predators also contain more toxins and take longer to mature.

According to the nonprofit group Oceana, destructive fishing practices like bottom trawling waste more than 16 billion pounds of fish while obliterating ocean habitats like coral reefs and seamounts that can take decades or centuries to recover. Trawlers annually scrape close to six million square miles of ocean floor. Shrimp trawls are the worst for unintentional catch or bycatch. Trawlers are used to catch shrimp, cod, haddock, flounder and rockfish. Dredges are used to catch scallops and clams.

To see a list of 10 things people can do about these things, click here.

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”  – William James

24 thoughts on “There Won’t Always Be More Fish In the Sea

    • I hope not but I know what you mean. I still can’t help feeling that if enough people decide to change things, change will happen.

  1. Hitting “like” was hard to do. I have such mixed feelings about eating seafood anymore. My husband and I lean toward farm-raised fish, but even that has it’s problems. We see the overfishing (including the famous Maryland blue crabs) in Chesapeake Bay and the nearby rivers. I’m not overly optimistic about the quality of human life in the not-so-distant future.

    • That’s true – this is definitely an unlikeable post! 🙂 The article recommends eating lower in the food chain but I’m not so sure that’s the answer either because then you’re probably eating the food of the species you’re trying to protect. That’s great that you try to find farm raised fish – then you’re not supporting fishing practices like trawling. I do think everything we do makes a difference, especially when combined with larger advocacy groups that call for governmental change.

  2. We are back to the same word, RESPONSIBILITY!
    The message is simple LIVE SIMPLY SO THAT OTHERS MAY SIMPLY LIVE and that includes our planet and all its magnificent creatures.

    • So true – thank you for that message! A lot of people probably think that what they do doesn’t make a difference but it really does.

  3. Like JM, I hesitated to hit ‘like’ but I like the fact that you posted this to help bring awareness to all of us. I didn’t know about the trawling. Eek. So, does that mean all shrimp are fished by this method, because of all seafood that I eat, shrimp is in the top 5.

    • I wasn’t sure so I looked into it a little and found this – – I guess most American shrimp is caught wildly but some are farm raised (unfortunately most of the farms were in the Gulf of Mexico and so the extra oil there didn’t help). Some shrimp are caught with smaller nets and not trawlers but most are probably caught with trawlers because you catch more that way. But on the positive side, there are suggestions at the end of the article on the brand of shrimp to look for (sold at Whole Foods) and there are petitions at Oceana asking for government regulation against trawlers and for protection against future oil spills. Sorry for the long response but thanks for caring!

      • Well, thanks for going a little bit further for me to see what more info there is! At least there are options, so I’ll have to be more careful with the shrimp purchasing.

  4. I pushed the like button, not because I’m happy about this, but because I appreciate you spreading the word, Sheila. Your post was full of information. I had no idea that our fish and fisheries were in trouble. I didn’t know how trawling worked. I love shrimp, and feel awful about the way it’s caught. Your link to Oceana was very informative also. I will pass the link on. Thanks for a good, but sad…post. It’s time to take action.

    • Thanks so much for spreading the word! Sorry about the shrimp thing though. I hadn’t realized a lot of that either. Oceana sends through lots of petitions against that sort of thing and there have been some victories so at least that’s positive news! 🙂

  5. Nice post and so to the point.
    We, being an island country depend on our fishing industry
    and yes, I hear all the time that people are not able to catch fish on earlier spots.
    there used to be fishes in abundance so time back and now fisherman are having to go far for a good catch …
    I just hope people do it in a sustainable way without depleting the fish population …

    • Thanks Amira! Sorry to hear fishermen are having a hard time of it there too. Hopefully if some changes are made, things will get better for the ocean, ocean life, and fishermen. I know how much you love the ocean and you live in such a beautiful place. Everyone just has to realize our resources aren’t limitless and so we have to stop acting as if they are…simple, right? 🙂

  6. Thank you for this post Sheila. That’s one thing I love of you and your blog, your environmental conscience. It’s so scary…I don’t understand why governments won’t forbid trawling. There is so much to do for our environment and so little is done… I’m going to your link about those 10 things we can do.

    • Thanks so much for taking a look at that link! As you can probably tell, I love the group Oceana. It gives me hope and some of the petitions even seem to work.

  7. Pingback: World Oceans Day | Sheila Hurst

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