8 June 2003

Oceans overfished beyond repair?

Is it true? Are we raping the oceans of fish and is the quantity of fish diminished from what it was centuries ago, or even decades ago? Environmentalists have been busy sounding off alarm sirens for some time but there still is a substantial segment of the world's denizens that have themselves rooted in disbelief. Corporate PR and the right wing ideologues like Rush Limbaugh paint the environmentalists as wackos and marginalize their arguments, despite the fact that it's often in direct opposition to a consensus of scientists (at least ones not on the payroll of corporate PR soruces) on the matter.

But every once in a while some piece of news brings back that not-very-distant world. The journal Nature this spring published the single most comprehensive study ever conducted of the world’s fisheries. Simply put, it concluded that the world’s oceans are wrecked. In the past 50 years, the populations of every single species of large wild fish have fallen by 90 percent or more. Those sharks, tuna, marlins, swordfish, halibut and grouper that have managed to survive are, on average, one-fifth to one-half the size they were 50 years ago. In the deep oceans, where Japanese fleets use fishing lines many kilometers long, they used to catch 10 fish per 100 hooks; now they are lucky to catch one.

Read first hand accounts of the oceans of days of past centuries. The Indians have tales of oceans full of fish, an ample supply that served as a limitless supply of food. Now I read that cod populations have been cut 99%.


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