Oceans Without Fish by 2050? UNEP Says Yes, At Current Fishing Rates

fishing boats photo

photo: echoforesberg

I have to say that this one just really depresses me (but please look straight at this one): AFP writes that a new report by the UNEP shows that at current fishing rates, and if we don't do anything to stop it, in 40 years there will not be any commercially-viable amounts of fish left in the oceans. Consider that for a moment before continuing reading. No significant quantities of fish left, due to direct human action.

tokyo fish market photo

Tokyo fish market, photo: Tatyana Temirbulatova;

Politicized Bluefin Tuna A Symbol of Bigger Problem
This estimate is similar to other recent estimates of the impact of overfishing, but really gains new resonance in light of the recent politicized CITES meeting which, due entirely to political pressure from Japan and other nations prioritizing short term financial gain over all else, failed to ban trade in the critically endangered bluefin tuna. At current catch rates (four times the official quota due to illegal, often Mafia-backed, fishing) Atlantic bluefin will be extinct in less than three years.

One Third Fish Stocks Collapsed, Less Fully Healthy
Overall, the report says that 30% of world fish stocks have already collapsed--meaning yielding less than 10% of their historic potential--with only 25% having healthy numbers of fish, and these are only the less desirable species.

As to one major factor contributing to the decline, the report says government subsidies encouraging bigger fleets is to blame. Annually $27 billion in subsidies, mainly from wealthy countries, are doled out. That compares to the entire value of fish caught being $85 billion.

school of fish photo

photo: Jordan Su
End Subsidies, Fund Rebuilding & Green Fisheries: UNEP
In the AFP article, UNEP head Achim Steiner said "our institutions, our governments are perfectly capable of changing course." Needed to do that--in addition to ending the perverse subsidies mentioned above--is an estimated $8 billion a year for "rebuilding and greening" the world's fisheries. A big part of that is efforts to help retrain and reemploy fishermen. This could raise catches to 112 million tonnes annually, while bringing some $1.7 trillion into the global economy over the next four decades.

So what do we want to do? Kill off all the fish in the sea or take a step back and, for once (!!!), prioritize long term ecological and economical sustainability (the two being intrinsically linked) over short-sighted and short-lived profits?

If less than one third the money we dole out to prop up commercial fishing can rebuild sustainable fisheries, this choice seems pretty easy.

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More on Overfishing:
Overfishing is Slowing, But Only in Areas With Good Fisheries Management
Overfishing Means Marine Animals Are Starving
Conservation Works: NOAA Declares Four US Fish Stocks Rebuilt to Healthy Levels

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