Fishing down the food chain

Honolulu Advertiser

Apr 22, 2009

For most of his life, Daniel Pauly has been ahead of the curve, and it’s not a pretty one: it’s the curve showing the myriad ways in which our oceans are dying.

Until 2001, the statistics compiled by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggested that the total amount of fish taken out of the oceans had stabilized at about 100 million tons a year. While certain species like cod and bluefin tuna were undeniably in serious trouble, the agency indicated that the world’s highly-trained fisheries scientists wielding complex mathematical models were well equipped to regulate fishing in coastal waters, from which most fishes are taken, and on the high seas.

But in a series of scientific studies pioneering a global approach carried out since 1995, Pauly has shown the just how broad the devastating effects of fishing on marine ecosystems have become. He also demonstrated that in fact, the world catch has been declining since the late eighties, despite a huge catch—on the order of 50 million tons—never making it into the FAO statistics. Pauly believes that by the time a child born today reaches old age, wild fresh fish will be as rare and expensive as caviar is now.

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