Freshwater Fish Much Larger and Plentiful Before Overfishing Took Its Toll


photo: Bill Tyne via flickr

Most of the focus on overfishing today is perhaps understandably focused on saltwater fish species, but new research fleshes out the idea that humanity has been over-exploiting fish species for a long time and that freshwater fish were never spared. On this, Discovery News has an interesting piece about just how plentiful and large freshwater fish used to be:In attempting to form a general picture of what lakes and rivers around the world used to look like before human fishing took its toll, fisheries ecologist Kirk Winemiller from Texas A&M; University and colleagues examined written accounts of fishing going back as far as the early 1600s.

In 1620, Captain John Smith wrote that his crew of pilgrims in New England had caught enough sturgeon, salmon, eels and other species in one night to fill 12 hogsheads. These containers measured four feet by 2.5 feet and could hold 1,000 pounds of tobacco each.

In the 1700s, travelers described huge stocks of pike, walleye, catfish and other fish in the Ohio River. In 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark mentioned dense and spectacular salmon runs in the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest.

The message Winemiller says is, "When you look at these accounts its pretty amazing how abundant and especially how large these fish species were that people wrote about," and that we're not paying enough attention to freshwater fish conservation efforts.

Read more: Freshwater Fish Populations See Rapid Decline
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Tags: Conservation | Fish | Fishing