Photo: Flickr, CC
Can Our Oceans Handle It?
China is number one in a lot of things, good and bad. One of these is the quantity of fish consumed, and the quantity of fish caught (which isn't always the same, as some countries import or export a lot of fish). But, sadly for our oceans, China has reached number 1 without even being a particularly fish-hungry country per capita (unlike Japan), so there is still a lot of room for it to grow in that regard. Will our oceans be able to handle it?
Photo: Flickr, CC
When it comes to consumption, China is #1, Japan #2, the USA #3, Indonesia #4, and India is #5. On the catch side, China is again #1, Peru #2, the USA #3, Japan #4, and Chile #5. For a more complete list, click here.
But calculating the impact of each country on marine ecosystems isn't straightforward. The species of fish that are caught matter a lot too:
In assessing the true impact nations have on the seas, the team needed to look not just at what a given nation caught but also at what the citizens of that nation ate.
Standard methods of measuring nations' impact on the sea are misleading because, as Pauly says, "every fish is different. A pound of tuna represents roughly a hundred times the footprint of a pound of sardines."
That's because fish like tuna are apex predators -- they feed at the very top of the food chain. The largest tuna eat enormous amounts of fish, including intermediate-level predators such as mackerel, which in turn feed on fish like anchovies, which prey on microscopic organisms. A large tuna must eat the equivalent of its body weight every 10 days to stay alive, so a single thousand-pound tuna might need to eat as many as 15,000 smaller fish in a year, the National Geographic article says.
Remember that next time you want to eat some tuna...and make sure to always carrey your Monterey Bay Aquarium wallet card.