November 26, 2006

New Warnings on the Collapse of Ocean Life

The NY Times has a piece today about how scientists are now worried that numerous species of fish are on the verge of collapse. Overfishing is a huge problem throughout the world and it now threatens to wipe out the fish we depend on by mid-century.

Twelve scientists from the United States, Canada, Sweden and Panama contributed to the work reported in Science today.

“We extracted all data on fish and invertebrate catches from 1950 to 2003 within all 64 large marine ecosystems worldwide,” they wrote. “Collectively, these areas produced 83 percent of global fisheries yields over the past 50 years.”

In an interview, Dr. Worm said, “We looked at absolutely everything — all the fish, shellfish, invertebrates, everything that people consume that comes from the ocean, all of it, globally.”

The researchers found that 29 percent of species had been fished so heavily or were so affected by pollution or habitat loss that they were down to 10 percent of previous levels, their definition of “collapse.”

This loss of biodiversity seems to leave marine ecosystems as a whole more vulnerable to overfishing and less able to recover from its effects, Dr. Worm said. It results in an acceleration of environmental decay, and further loss of fish.

Unacknowledged in this piece is the problem of ocean acidification which I wrote about yesterday, but that should be factored into the damage to the marine ecosystem.

Al Gore is right to call the crisis of global warming the moral challenge of our times.

Update: do read Devilstower's powerful piece on what's happening with our fisheries all over the world.

Posted by Mary at November 26, 2006 11:55 AM | Environment | Technorati links |

Under the cannibalism of "Soylent Green" is the death of the oceans. There are some parts of science fiction that we should have taken warnings from.

I wonder if any of those mad, clever monkeys will survive their own inventiveness.

Posted by: Scorpio at November 26, 2006 12:55 PM

Couldn't Earth transition its civilized centers away from overreliance on meat and fish and towards more sustainably harvested nutritional sources? Perhaps we could somehow find a way to make vegetarianism look sexy. Big billboard ads with hot girls eating tofu or something.

Posted by: Tahoma Activist at November 26, 2006 02:01 PM

Vegetarianism isn't automatically sustainable and animal protein isn't automatically non-sustainable. Genetically-engineered soybeans resistant to their brand of pesticide is one of Monsanto's big cash cows, while some farmers in Japan and China (and Korea, too, I think) are raising ducks, fish, and rice in a farming system that requires little in the way of additional input. How the growing/harvesting is done is as much an issue as what is being grown/harvested.

Posted by: tjewell at November 26, 2006 04:52 PM

As a friend of mine said when we were talking about this last night, 'So, we're all going to die because we can't retrain fishermen for other jobs?'

Posted by: natasha at November 27, 2006 09:37 AM

I don't think it's about retraining fishermen so much as about making the oceans a CO2 sink and disrupting how the atmosphere of the planet functions. The cycle of fish and plants matters to the balance.

I suppose if every human on earth planted one tree every ten years, we could help make up for the CO2, *but* ....

Posted by: Scorpio at November 27, 2006 12:51 PM

Vegetarianism might not be _automatically_ sustainable, but when done right, farming crops for direct human consumption is inherently more efficient and sustainable than farming animals.

Posted by: felice at November 27, 2006 02:54 PM