photo: XcBiker/Creative Commons
Conventional green wisdom on overfishing developed over the past few years says that by mid-century current rates of fishing will entirely deplete the world's oceans. Dire stuff. However a new study paints a different picture, that while still dim, isn't nearly as grim. At issue is what methodology is used to assess a particular fisheries' health. If you look at records of how many fish are caught (and presumably incorporate an assumed level of illicit fishing...) you end up with the grim stat of about 70% of all fish stocks peaking and now being in decline, 33% of stocks overexploited and 13% collapsed--with a commercial collapse of fishing by 2048.
However if you look at estimated available biomass of individual species a merely dim picture emerges: 15% of fisheries overexploited, 13% collapsed and 24% of stocks actually increasing.
It's that second approach that's argued as being more accurate by scientists from the University of Washington in a new paper--which is thoroughly summarized and point-counterpointed by The New York Times,
Sustainable Fishing Important, Whichever Numbers Are More Accurate
As a TreeHugger reader though, the best practice is still to pay close attention to the fish that you buy, ensuring it comes from fisheries that are certified sustainable whenever possible. Even if the less-depleted numbers are accurate (and as to be expected, scientists supporting the stats showing higher levels of overfishing are defending their methodology) we don't want to be eating any species into collapse or extinction--and there are still specific fish species in very much dire straits.