We're running out of fish and we're fast running out of new places to find fish. A joint Canada/U.S./Australia study released by the peer-reviewed science information site, PloS, concludes that global fishing has burgeoned so rapidly over the past half century that the world fleets are running out of places to fish, places that is where the historic fisheries have not already been collapsed.
Once again, man has bested nature, taking more than the earth can supply. In 1950 the global catch was 19-million tonnes. It peaked in 1980 at 90-million tonnes. Despite new technologies the global catch dropped to 87-million tonnes by 2005 and fell below 80-million tonnes in 2008. It seems we reached Peak Fish three decades ago and have been relentlessly decimating the stocks ever since.
We got away with this three ways. One was "fishing down the food chain." As one desirable species was fished to collapse, we switched to what had been a less desirable species. Another was simply deploying better technology - a more efficient fishing fleet. The third was nomadic fishing - moving from one decimated area to a fresh fishing zone. Anyway you cut it, that has to end badly.
Daniel Pauly, a co-author who serves as principal investigator of the Sea Around Us Project at the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre, said the global seafood catch is dropping ''because there's essentially nowhere to go''. The fact that fish catches rose for so many decades ''looks like sustainability but it is actually expansion-driven. That is frightening, because the accounting is coming now.''
The authors - including lead author and UBC doctoral student Wilf Swartz and National Geographic Society ocean fellow Enric Sala - write that this relentless pursuit for seafood has left ''only unproductive waters of high seas and relatively inaccessible waters in the Arctic and Antarctic as the last remaining 'frontiers'.''