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The End of Fish

As we noted in a previous post about eating fish sustainably, “[E]nvironmental activists estimate that 90 percent of the large, predatory species in the sea now teeter on the brink of extinction. And the commercial fishing industry’s shortsighted, industrial perspective on utilizing oceanic ecosystems means that vessels from different countries continue to compete for the same fish in the same areas, many using increasingly destructive and sophisticated technology to pull greater harvests from an ever-diminishing supply.”1

The government subsidizes a dangerous fishing-industrial complex that continues to deplete the oceans and encourage ecologically horrendous practices.

From The New Republic:

It is essential that we [force the fishing-industrial complex to catch fewer fish] as quickly as possible because the consequences of an end to fish are frightful. To some Western nations, an end to fish might simply seem like a culinary catastrophe, but for 400 million people in developing nations, particularly in poor African and South Asian countries, fish are the main source of animal protein. What’s more, fisheries are a major source of livelihood for hundreds of million of people. A recent World Bank report found that the income of the world’s 30 million small-scale fisheries is shrinking. The decrease in catch has also dealt a blow to a prime source of foreign-exchange earnings, on which impoverished countries, ranging from Senegal in West Africa to the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, rely to support their imports of staples such as rice.

And, of course, the end of fish would disrupt marine ecosystems to an extent that we are only now beginning to appreciate. Thus, the removal of small fish in the Mediterranean to fatten bluefin tuna in pens is causing the “common” dolphin to become exceedingly rare in some areas, with local extinction probable. Other marine mammals and seabirds are similarly affected in various parts of the world. Moreover, the removal of top predators from marine ecosystems has effects that cascade down, leading to the increase of jellyfish and other gelatinous zooplankton and to the gradual erosion of the food web within which fish populations are embedded. This is what happened off the coast of southwestern Africa, where an upwelling ecosystem similar to that off California, previously dominated by fish such as hake and sardines, has become overrun by millions of tons of jellyfish.

Jellyfish population outbursts are also becoming more frequent in the northern Gulf of Mexico, where the fertilizer-laden runoff from the Mississippi River fuels uncontrolled algae blooms. The dead algae then fall to a sea bottom from which shrimp trawling has raked all animals capable of feeding on them, and so they rot, causing Massachusetts-sized “dead zones.” Similar phenomena–which only jellyfish seem to enjoy–are occurring throughout the world, from the Baltic Sea to the Chesapeake Bay, and from the Black Sea in southeastern Europe to the Bohai Sea in northeastern China. Our oceans, having nourished us since the beginning of the human species some 150,000 years ago, are now turning against us, becoming angry opponents.

Read the whole article here.

  1. Sustainable Food: How to Buy Right and Spend Less, by Elise McDonough


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