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