Why Eating Fish Is Not Okay Anymore

All seafood stocks around the world may collapse by 2050 if fishing continues at its current rate, scientists have warned.

The collapse, which would see more than 90 percent of all wild seafood that is currently fished disappear, would destroy both ecosystems and fishing economies, says the large study, published in the Science journal.

We now know without a doubt that the fish in the ocean are a finite resource.

So many fish are killed each year for food that we can't even count them in terms of individual animals. They're measured by weight, hundreds of thousands of tons, which amounts to billions and billions of animals. The global fishing fleet is currently 2.5x larger than what the oceans can sustainably support- meaning that humans are taking far more fish out of the ocean than can be replaced by those remaining. Many marine scientists now believe that overfishing is the biggest threat to the ocean environment, even greater than that of other human caused disruptions like increasing pollution. The high demand for fish, along with more effective fishing techniques, has lead to many species of fish around the world being depleted, making them commercially extinct (not worth fishing). 

Many fishers are well aware of the need to safeguard fish populations and the marine environment. However, the greed and waste of some large commercial fleets combined with modern developments in fishing technology have made it difficult to stop this devastation.

Because nobody owns the ocean's resources, they can easily be used for profit by anyone and everyone. When a fishery first opens, it may be fished by a small group of people. These first individuals usually experience good catches and profits. As news of the new fishery spreads, the area may be flooded with more people catching fish. But they catch fewer and fewer fish. If the fishing goes unchecked, a collapse of the fish population will occur. In other words, the total number of fish that can be caught each year is exceeded. This level is called the maximum sustainable yield. Most fisheries in the world today are being fished close to or above their maximum sustainable yield. The California sardine fishery, the Newfoundland cod fishery, and the king crab fisheries of the Bering Sea are examples of the tragedy of over fishing. In addition to what is harvested, over 20 million tons of fish and other marine animals - about one-fourth of the global catch - are killed and discarded yearly by fishermen using huge nets, multi-mile longlines and other indiscriminate gear. Some fleets throw away more fish than they keep. This wasted "bykill" is a problem in almost every fishery.

Off New England, cod were once so plentiful that boats had trouble pushing through them. Now we know, 25% of all the world's fish stocks are either overexploited or depleted. Another 52% is fully exploited, these are in imminent danger of overexploitation (maximum sustainable production level) and collapse. Thus a total of almost 80% of the world's fisheries are fully- to over-exploited, depleted, or in a state of collapse. Worldwide about 90% of the stocks of large predatory fish stocks are already gone. In the real world all this comes down to two serious problems.

1. We are losing species as well as entire ecosystems. As a result the overall ecological unity of the oceans are under stress and at risk of collapse.
2. We are at risk of losing a valuable food source many depend upon for dietary reasons.

The rapid growth in demand for fish and fish products is leading to fish prices increasing faster than prices of meat. As a result, fisheries investments have become more attractive to both entrepreneurs and governments, much to the detriment of small-scale fishing and fishing communities all over the world. In the last decade, in the north Atlantic region, commercial fish populations of cod, hake, haddock and flounder have fallen by as much as 95%, prompting calls for urgent measures. Some are even recommending zero catches to allow for regeneration of stocks, much to the ire of the fishing industry.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing worldwide appears to be increasing as fishers seek to avoid stricter rules in many places in response to shrinking catches and declining fish stocks. Few, if any, developing countries and only a limited number of developed ones are on track to put into effect by this year the International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Unreported and Unregulated Fishing.

It's not only the fish that is affected by fishing. As we are fishing down the food web the increasing effort needed to catch something of commercial value marine mammals, sharks, sea birds, and non commercially viable fish species in the web of marine biodiversity are overexploited, killed as bycatch and discarded (up to 80% of the catch for certain fisheries), and threatened by the industrialized fisheries. Scientists agree that at current exploitation rates many important fish stocks will be removed from the system within 25 years. Dr. Daniel Pauly describes it as follows:

        "The big fish, the bill fish, the groupers, the big things will be gone. It is happening now. If things go unchecked, we'll have a sea full of little horrible things that nobody wants to eat. We might end up with a marine junkyard dominated by plankton"


Through the Years

-Between 1950 and 1994, the ocean fishing industry increased the total catch by 400%.

-In 1997-1998, the total global capture peaked at an estimated 93 million tons.

-In 1999, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that 70-78% of worldwide marine fish stocks require urgent intervention to prevent population declines and to help rebuild species depleted by over fishing.

-In the waters surrounding the United States, the U.S. Department of Commerce listed 959 different fish stocks in the 2001 Annual Report to Congress on the Status of U.S. Fisheries. Of these nearly 1000 species, the status of 68.3% were listed as unknown; of the remaining 31.7%, almost one third are listed as overfished.

-In 2003 the journal Science reported on the catastrophic decline of Earth's marine life.

The article, by Ransom Myers and Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Halifax, said that over the last 50 years commercial fishing has removed 90% of the larger fish species -- cod, tuna, swordfish, billfish and sharks -- from the world's oceans. In November of 2006, Science published a paper contributed to by 14 biologists which concluded that, at the current rate of exploitation, there will be no fish left in the sea in 40 years.

-In 2004, the US Commission on Ocean Policy reported that "25% to 30% of the world's major fish stocks are overexploited and that US fisheries are experiencing similar difficulties. Of the nation's 267 major fish stocks ... roughly 20% are either already overfished, experiencing overfishing, or approaching an overfished condition."
-In 2005, a study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations found that global stocks of most fish are stretched to their limits. Nearly a quarter of commercial species have already been over-exploited, with a total 70% of species now being fished close to, at, or beyond their capacity.

-In 2008, NatureNews prints this article OVERFISHING WORSE THAN THOUGHT

-In 2008, president Obama attempts to stop overfishing.

-In 2010, leading international marine scientists are proposing radical changes in the governance of the world's oceans to rescue them from overfishing, pollution and other human impacts.

Don't Forget Freshwater Fish, Too

Most of the focus on overfishing today is perhaps understandably focused on saltwater fish species, but new research fleshes out the idea that humanity has been over-exploiting fish species for a long time and that freshwater fish were never spared.

In attempting to form a general picture of what lakes and rivers around the world used to look like before human fishing took its toll, fisheries ecologist Kirk Winemiller from Texas A&M University and colleagues examined written accounts of fishing going back as far as the early 1600s.

"When you look at these accounts, it is pretty amazing how abundant and especially how large these fish species were that people wrote about," says Kirk.
Just a few hundred years ago, the world's rivers and lakes teemed with gigantic fish. Freshwater fish were so plentiful that they were used to feed farm animals and fishers found it hard not to make a catch.

The demise of most of the world's grand freshwater fish, Winemiller said, was a direct result of overfishing. Today, huge lake and river fish live only in the few places in the world that are free of human influence, such as the Guiana Shield in South America.
"People rarely appreciate the major impact that even a fairly moderate amount of fishing has on certain freshwater stocks," said Winemiller.

Ways You Can Help...

If we want to we can reverse most of the destruction. In some situations it might only take a decade, in other situations it might take many centuries. Yet in the end we can have productive and healthy oceans again as is shown in many examples around the world. We do however need to act on it now, before we cross the point of no return.

You can help by:

Becoming Informed-Read as much as you can about this serious issue.

Boycotting fish and shellfish-By choosing to buy and eat fish, and other ocean creatures, you are directly contributing to an industry that is overfishing and destroying the fragile ocean ecosystem. Do not be a part of this insanity. Fish are on their way to extinction. If you wouldn't order a bald eagle sandwich or a panda bear burger then why would you order a bluefin? Even farmed fish (aquaculture) has it's downside. Farmed fish need two pounds of wild fish for feed to make one pound of farmed fish. In addition, farmed fish are so overcrowded they cannot even swim; this environment breeds disease and waste which escapes into the ocean affecting wild fish. Farmed fish are also given antibiotics, to prevent disease, which also seeps into the ocean and is eaten by you. Let's all be conscious before we sit down to our next meal. Every bite counts.

Spreading the word-Inform friends, families and everyone you can about what is happening and what they can do to help.

How Do You Get Omega 3 without Fish?

Recent statistics indicate that nearly 99% of people in the United States do not eat enough omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are essential; your body needs them and in an appropriate ratio. You can get these very important fats through many foods other than fish. In fact, fish is no longer considered a safe food as all contain mercury and PCB's in varying amounts.

Excellent alternative sources of omega 3's:

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