Top Story: February 23, 2011

Will There Be Fish in 2050?

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Will there be fish in the ocean in 2050? Several scientists attempted to answer this question at the AAAS Meeting held in Washington, DC last week.

Villy Christensen of the University of British Columbia (UBC) said, “Yes, there will be fish left, but it will be a very different ocean from the ones your parents and grandparents knew and even different from now.”

The biggest difference? Large, predatory fish will be gone.

In fact, over the last one hundred years, the population of these large, top-of-the-food-web fish has declined by two-thirds, half of that decline occurring only in the last 40 years. And that population continues to decline.

There will be many small fish left, but not necessarily the ones we eat.

He and his colleague, Reg Watson, also from UBC, are working with scientists, governments and NGOs to build a global database of fishing efforts to truly understand what’s going on in the world’s oceans.

Seventy-six million tons of fish are consumed each year, and Watson found that we are fishing harder for the same or less result. It’s possible that we’ve hit “peak fish,” according to Watson. Jacqueline Alder of the UN Environment Program in Kenya is working with the UBC group, looking at their models in terms of marine biodiversity and sustainability. She urged that we must reduce fishing efforts immediately to allow fish stocks to rebuild.

In addition, there was much discussion around the non-sustainability of using fish for feedstock in aquaculture and agriculture-- fish we are not directly eating. The science and technology have to get better to use plant-based feedstock for fish farms.

Christensen stressed this is a large view of what’s going on in the entire ocean ecosystem, not just one area or species.

For more focused, local information, read our recent article on banning shark finning, and the San Francisco Chronicle had a devastating article last week stating that some of the fish in the Delta may be too far gone to save from extinction.

Image: Mila Zinkova/Wikimedia

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