Changing Planet

The Fish Skeptics

In the last decade, studies analyzing global fisheries statistics since 1950 have shown a decline in marine fish catches. Most experts believe that the decline in catches is due to overexploitation, that is, we have removed fish out of the sea faster than they can replenish. Projections of trends since 1950 suggest a continued depletion of fish and consequent collapse of fisheries.

Time series of the composition of global marine fisheries catch according to the status of the stocks making up that catch, 1950−2003 (From Pauly, D. 2007. AMBIO 36(4):290-295)

 

However, a handful of fisheries scientists have argued recently that these studies exaggerate the problem and that most fish stocks are actually stable or rebounding (see recent blog in New York Times). Their message is that the world is mostly fine and that no significant action is required to turn things around. Based on existing evidence, most marine biologists believe that they are wrong. Most fishermen around the world will also agree that we have a real problem.

Why are the skeptics wrong? Mainly because they are showing new ‘global’ trends that suggest stability by using only data from a subset of the world’s fisheries – mostly those that are well managed and monitored, and which are doing better than most other fisheries. I agree that well managed fisheries can rebound, but these represent less than a tenth of the world’s fisheries. Who would agree on the results of a study describing the wealth of Americans using only Forbes’ millionaires list?

 

Marine ecologist Dr. Enric Sala is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who combines science, exploration and media to help restore marine life. Sala’s scientific publications are used for conservation efforts such as the creation of marine protected areas. 2005 Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow, 2006 Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation, 2008 Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum.
  • Bill

    There is no doubt anthropomorphism is impacting our planet. Just look around you as you read this. Are you in a building that was built on cleared land? Is there a road outside built on cleared land? Are you in a city of many square km, built on cleared land?
    The main cause seems to be that the Homo sapiens species is having a population bubble, which will eventually burst somehow if it is not deflated humanely.
    The symptoms are degradation of natural protein sources like seafood, all the stuff with CO2, water issues etc.
    How many so-called climate sceptics accept anthropomorphism exists, but just don’t see how giving already rich scientists more money will address the problem? “Climate Science” is too much about politics and money, and not enough about seeking real solutions like making solar energy and wind energy etc more accessible to more people, that is why there are so many sceptics.
    How much of the protein being “harvested” from our oceans is being used to feed the pets which are overpopulating along with the Homo sapiens owners?
    When science journalists and scientists stop playing politics and being greedy for more money and political power, we may see some rational debate on how to deflate the population bubble without horrible wars and/or diseases. Then all the fish in the sea will enjoy some peace as will many other species on our planet.

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