How Many More Fish in the Sea?

Seafood is the primary source of protein for more than one billion people – can they live without it?

As world fishing stocks decline, less sustainable methods of fishing are becoming increasingly common (Reuters)
Worldwide, 90 per cent of large predatory fish stocks are now gone due to overfishing.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 85 per cent of fish stocks are “overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion”.

Speaking on the occasion of International World Biodiversity Day on May 22, UN chief Ban Ki-Moon warned that over-consumption and rampant pollution was threatening the world’s oceans and marine biodiversity.

“Commercial over-exploitation of the world’s fish stocks is severe,” he said. “Many species have been hunted to fractions of their original populations. More than half of global fisheries are exhausted, and a further third are depleted.”

This critical convergence of rapidly declining fish stocks and a growing number of the planet’s inhabitants depending on seafood will be discussed at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainability coming up next month in Brazil.

Are the talks it too late, or is this still a solvable problem?

A plague?

Dr Maria Salta, a biological oceanographer at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, gave Al Jazeera a bleak prognosis about the state of the oceans.

“It is clear that if we continue like this, in a few years time there is not going to be much left,” she said of the rampant over-fishing going on across the globe, along with the overall treatment of oceans at the hands of humans. “We are losing species every day without ever knowing about them. Sometimes humans can be like a plague to the environment.”

Dr Salta’s statement might be shocking to some, but there is ample scientific evidence to back it. Overfishing is simply a matter of taking wildlife from the sea at rates that are too high for the fished species to replace themselves. Atlantic cod and herring, along with California’s sardines, were overfished to the brink of extinction by the 1950s, and by the late 20th century, isolated depletions had become both global and catastrophic.

Read the full story at Al Jazeera English.