End of fish, in one chart. WaPo via WWF
red means overfishing, orange - intense fishing. moreover:
- Daniel Pauly, a professor of fisheries at the University of British Columbia, has dubbed this situation “The End of Fish.” He points out that in the past 50 years, the populations of many large commercial fish such as bluefin tuna and cod have collapsed, in some cases shrinking more than 90 percent
- The full WWF report (PDF), meanwhile, is full of brightly colored graphs charting the decline of wildlife across the globe. All told, global vertebrate populations have declined by some 30 percent since 1970. But that number masks a lot of variation. Wildlife actually appears to be recovering in the temperate areas, while it’s disappearing at a rapid rate in the tropics. It seems there have been some modest conservation successes in the wealthier temperate regions — the European otter is staging an impressive comeback, for instance.
- The major point the WWF paper emphasizes is that human consumption patterns are currently unsustainable. We’re essentially consuming the equivalent of one and a half Earths each year. This is possible because we borrow from the future, as is the case with fish — one day the world’s fish population may shrink, but there’s plenty for us now.
- So is there any way to stop the slide? After all, it’s not like people can just stop eating fish altogether. Pauly, surprisingly, is fairly optimistic. He argues that strict government quotas on catches can help stop the slide. “There is no need for an end to fish,” he writes, “or to fishing for that matter.” (He’s not sold on aquaculture, or fish farming, since it often requires huge harvests of smaller fish to feed the big carnivorous ones in farms.)
- The hitch is that when governments have tried to institute such quotas in the past — as they’ve recently attempted with Atlantic bluefin tuna — the rules can sometimes get watered down under lobbying pressure. Or occasionally shadowy black markets emerge to flout the rules. But no one said it was easy, halting the end of fish.