Where have all the fish gone? Have we reached the end of the line?
By GPF Global Policy Forum at Mar 15, 2011
By 2048 we might have a world without seafood. Bluefin tuna, cod, salmon, snapper or halibut will not exist in our diets because they will have been fished out. Even clams, lobster and shrimp are at risk.
The End of the Line, the first major documentary film revealing the impact of overfishing, examines the impact of human fish consumption on the world’s oceans. Charles Clover, the investigative journalist who wrote the book on which the film is based, confronts politicians and restaurateurs who seem to care very little about the destruction of our oceans. Clover says that, "we must stop thinking of our oceans as a food factory and realize that they thrive as a huge and complex marine environment.”
Multiple reasons have caused the current crisis. Consumers demand more variety of fish and unknowingly eat unsustainably caught seafood. According to a recent report on the decline of predator fish, humans have caught and consumed over 65 per cent of all large fish species in the last 100 years. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that over 70% of the world’s fish species are either fully exploited or depleted. Experts say that this ecological imbalance will forever change the oceans, with only small fish such as sardines and anchovies surviving in future decades.
Governments and politicians overlook the advice of scientists who set limits on the numbers of fish which should be caught to maintain and restore depleting fish species. The UN Environment Program says international organizations and governments should regulate the number of fishing boats and the days they fish in order to stabilize fish populations.
Furthermore, the global fishing industry reacts slowly to a fish crises on which their livelihoods depend. Fishermen discard more than 10 per cent of all the fish caught for human consumption. As much as two-thirds of the fish caught in some areas ends up back into the water, usually dead. EU rules specify that when a quota for one species is exceeded, fishermen must throw surplus catch back into the ocean. EU Ministers plan to make the most radical change to fisheries policy in 40 years: a common fisheries policy, aiming to reform fishing quotas. Fishermen do not need to throw away their by-catch. This is a small step in the right direction. However more people should be educated about eating sustainable seafood, and politicians should respect the science and support the creation of marine reserves.