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And thanks for all the fish.
November 2, 2006 11:22 AM   Subscribe

There will be virtually nothing left to fish from the seas by the middle of the century if current trends continue, according to a major scientific study. What IS our planet going to look like in 50 years? Can there really be no more fish by then? I can't even begin to imagine this.
posted by jfwlucy (86 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's gonna look a little Mars and a little like Venus. Good times, good times.
posted by keswick at 11:28 AM on November 2, 2006


This is the GDP model of natural resources: use it up until it's gone, and don't worry about it until then. To my eye, very similar to old growth logging: the people involved whine about not being able to log the old growth trees, but once they're gone, they'll be no better off. Humans simply do not plan for the future well, if at all.

Gonna be a very interesting place, the world, in 50 years.
posted by maxwelton at 11:31 AM on November 2, 2006


Using "percentage of total # of species" as one of your scales and then extrapolating it to zero seems like junk science.
posted by smackfu at 11:32 AM on November 2, 2006


"The image I use to explain why biodiversity is so important is that marine life is a bit like a house of cards," said Dr Worm.

It's a joke! He's not a real doctor.
posted by mosessmith at 11:32 AM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


I've been involved in maritime history long enough to doubt this not at all. It's been a major concern of fisheries science for quite some time that we've stripped the oceans clean and they're really beyond fixing. The habitat destruction from dragging the bottom alone will create population problems for decades to come -- in one swift swipe we destroy ocean-floor habitats that were built from the detritus of hundred of years.

Marine scientists think that we've gone so far because the damage to the oceans is relatively invisible -- the ocean surface looks the same despite the fact that the biomass is gone. Environmental damage on land, like clear-cutting and overdevelopment, is obvious and unsavory enough that we can see and be horrified by what has happened. Destruction under water, though, is relatively invisible.
posted by Miko at 11:37 AM on November 2, 2006


Of course Worm wants to reduce fishing.

Seriously, this could be the avoidable destruction of a major industry in our lifetimes. Surely governments will act more effectively than they have done with the less tangible, more complex and longer-term threats from global warming. I hope.
posted by Arcaz Ino at 11:38 AM on November 2, 2006


THE SKY IS FALLING THE SKY IS oh wait
posted by Addiction at 11:39 AM on November 2, 2006


Another idiotic straight line projection. "The Population Bomb" lives on...
posted by Marky at 11:39 AM on November 2, 2006


avoidable destruction

Actually, what people are saying is that it's already too far gone to avoid.
posted by Miko at 11:43 AM on November 2, 2006


The only chance for the fish is that before they're all eaten, the imbalance between demand and supply for food causes the collapse of complex society.
posted by MetaMonkey at 11:44 AM on November 2, 2006


Another idiotic straight line projection. "The Population Bomb" lives on...

Is there any good reason to believe population can continue expanding exponentially while resources shrink correspondingly?
posted by MetaMonkey at 11:46 AM on November 2, 2006


Everything's fine. When commodities get scarce, humans are always willing to cut back on their consumption and share with others, right? It's not like there will be wars or anything.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:47 AM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


Even that won't be enough. The ecosystems in which fish live are too complex to rebound easily once predation stops. The combination of habitat destruction, rising ocean temperature, and population reduction through overfishing combine in a way that makes conditions unable to support the re-growth of a population. This is what happened to all the cod. There's a moratorium on codfishing in most of their former fishing grounds; yet populations on the whole are not increasing, because the numbers of communities and individuals cannot grow beyond the bounds of the increasingly limited habitat and food supply left to them. That habitat owed its existence to milennia of ocean processes which deposited nutrients on the ocean floor on the shoal areas which sunlight could still reach (producing abundant phytoplankton), and on combinations of cold and warm currents which are changing due to global warming. Just stopping the catching of cod will not allow the population to spring back. And we have no way of recreating those specific circumstances that allowed cod to flourish and grow to 50-75 pounds only a century ago.

I used to use cod to teach about all this, in a demonstration at a museum where I worked. Sometimes we couldn't get them at all. When we could get them, they never ever ever weighed more than 9 pounds.
posted by Miko at 11:50 AM on November 2, 2006


Another idiotic straight line projection. "The Population Bomb" lives on...

Even better, in this case it's not total population, it's # of species. So they count a species w/ 10 million fish the same as one with 10,000.
posted by smackfu at 11:52 AM on November 2, 2006


Check out HMAP to see one source of the data underlying the assertion that the fish are goin' bye-bye.
posted by Miko at 11:52 AM on November 2, 2006


Bah, in 50 years the physical world will look suprisingly similar to the world of today which bears more than a passing resemblance to the world of 50 years ago.

However, we'll be growing genetically-engineered "feed" fish to enormous sizes in industrial sized holding tanks by then, and space travel will allow us to tap into the incredibly vast new bio-mass of other planets anyway.
posted by scheptech at 11:53 AM on November 2, 2006


Seriously, this could be the avoidable destruction of a major industry in our lifetimes.

I hope you appreciate fish are more than an industry, they are a vital part of the earth's ecosystem, without them the seas return to primordial slop and humans starve.

Surely governments will act more effectively than they have done with the less tangible, more complex and longer-term threats from global warming

Not yet:
Every year since 2001, the European Union's scientific advisers have urged a complete halt to cod fishing in the North Sea.
Every year European fisheries ministers have discarded the advice, and set quotas ranging from 49,000 tonnes in 2001 to 23,000 tonnes in 2006.
The scientists say a zero catch is necessary to allow overfished cod stocks to revive. The politicians say fishing communities cannot be put out of work overnight.
see also, also
posted by MetaMonkey at 11:53 AM on November 2, 2006


Dr. Worm...or Mister Mind?
posted by Smart Dalek at 11:55 AM on November 2, 2006


I don't want to live in a world without lox
posted by poppo at 12:02 PM on November 2, 2006


and space travel will allow us to tap into the incredibly vast new bio-mass of other planets anyway.

Doesn't Mars have some really nice canals? I bet they have lots of fish there.
posted by cytherea at 12:05 PM on November 2, 2006


...and space travel will allow us to tap into the incredibly vast new bio-mass of other planets anyway.

And you'll take a jet pack to work. Yeah, we know. A jet pack that runs on cod liver oil.
posted by pracowity at 12:08 PM on November 2, 2006


Bah, in 50 years the physical world will look suprisingly similar to the world of today which bears more than a passing resemblance to the world of 50 years ago.

1932 | 1988

50 years -- looks the same to me.

space travel will allow us to tap into the incredibly vast new bio-mass of other planets anyway

Man, I sure hope this is sarcasm just too subtle for me to recognize, otherwise...wow.
posted by QuestionableSwami at 12:11 PM on November 2, 2006


Given that the majority of this planet is covered by ocean, the idea of decimating the life in that ocean pretty much means the complete breakdown of the planetary food chain, period. A huge swath of the world gets their primary source of protein from fish. This is very serious - farmed fish ain't gonna mean anything if the oceans die. Oh man. Right about now is when I'm really glad I don't have children.
posted by dbiedny at 12:16 PM on November 2, 2006


Don't worry, our innate moral sense will save us! (Gobbles down another delicious tiger prawn)
posted by No Robots at 12:18 PM on November 2, 2006


It's a joke! He's not a real doctor.

But he is a real worm.
He's an actual worm.
posted by eustacescrubb at 12:19 PM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


When mother nature closes a door she opens a window.
posted by jfuller at 12:21 PM on November 2, 2006


Poor fish. The water will be so much warmer in 50 years, and they won't be around to enjoy it.
posted by scody at 12:22 PM on November 2, 2006


I feel like ocean life has a real out of sight out of mind quality, for most people. If I woke up tomorrow and all the dogs in the city were dead you can bet it would be all over the news. Fish populations at record lows gets buried in the morning paper somewhere.

Fishing, Like Lumber, is a renewable resource that can be managed equitably. It just usually isn't.

Dog Populations however are limitless and should be plundered frivolously.
posted by French Fry at 12:28 PM on November 2, 2006


Man, I sure hope this is sarcasm just too subtle for me to recognize, otherwise...wow

Jesus what do you need a giant blinking SARCASM flag? Does sarcasm get more obvious than that?
posted by spicynuts at 12:31 PM on November 2, 2006


Planet of Weeds
The consensus among conscientious biologists is that we're headed into another mass extinction, a vale of biological impoverishment commensurate with the big five. Many experts remain hopeful that we can brake that descent, but my own view is that we're likely to go all the way down...

The most recent estimate comes from Stuart L. Pimm and Thomas M. Brooks, ecologists at the University of Tennessee... "How many species will be lost if current trends continue?" the two scientists asked. "Somewhere between one third and two thirds of all species--easily making this event as large as the previous five mass extinctions the planet has experienced."
posted by MetaMonkey at 12:37 PM on November 2, 2006


Tar Tar!
posted by HTuttle at 12:41 PM on November 2, 2006


Well, there went biodiversity. On the plus side, I'm sure we'll be able to get our daily zymoveal from the section kitchen.
posted by vorfeed at 12:55 PM on November 2, 2006


I'm doing my part by not liking seafood.

No one's warning of the depletion of the once-vast herds of tasty cattle, so I figure I'm golden.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:58 PM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


Doing my part by being a vegetarian. Fishies can relax around me since 1990. Happy to not be part of the problem.

What's the term I'm thinking of? Comeuppance? Schadenfreude? Both seem too mean. As an ocean diver, this is all just deplorable. Once the fish are gone, so are we.
posted by Dantien at 1:10 PM on November 2, 2006


So which is it? Are we facing an Ice Age or are the Oceans going to boil away? Seems like every crackpot has an opinion. IMHO The little fishees will just move to whatever microclimate suits them and go on making other little fishees. Didn't Darwin kinda sorta prove this a couple of hundred years ago?
posted by Gungho at 1:17 PM on November 2, 2006


What's really amusing about all this is the way fishermen claim to be noble stewards of the sea while they strip-mine it into oblivion.

Every time moratoriums or quotas comes up, fishing industry spokesmen rattle on about how nobody is better at managing a resource than the people that depend on that resource, so why listen to scientists? Let the fishermen fish, and everything will turn out OK in the end.

It's amazing how almost nobody in the North Sea fishing industry has paid any attention to what happened to the Grand Banks. Oh sure, they'll acknowledge it in passing, but there's almost no evidence it's actually penetrated their consciousness.

"Sure, that turned out badly for Canada, and yes we're behaving exactly the way they did, but our outcome will be different! Really!"
posted by aramaic at 1:18 PM on November 2, 2006


I should like to know this guy's views
posted by A189Nut at 1:25 PM on November 2, 2006


The difference between species loss and population decrease is extremely important. By analogy, consider job losses. If 20% of (randomly chosen) workers lost their jobs, it would be bad ---but you could imagine bouncing back from that. If 20% of industries were eliminated, things would be much worse. For starters, additional industries would collapse because industries that they relied upon vanished. When all the collapses finished, there would still be wild fluctuations because the economy as a whole would be in a strange, unhealthy state without precedent, with individual organizations unsure of how to react properly.

An ecosystem is vulnerable in that manner, only worse; because the organisms are much more tightly-connected, and many of them are even more psychotic than corporations. When species go extinct, the entire chemistry of the ocean can change. Oxygen levels can fluctuate, aggressive microorganisms can take over and release toxins. There are a multitude of effects that you might not expect that can fundamentally change how the whole system looks. It doesn't help that humans want to eat the largest (and therefore most-vulnerable) organisms in these ecosystems. In the end, "recovery" may mean that the ecosystem reaches a stable state that's completely different (and perhaps much poorer) than before.

Oh, and being a vegetarian may help, but it isn't everything. Run-off from fertilizer is an extremely serious problem. Dumping food into the ocean alters the ecosystem (and the chemistry of the water, etc) dramatically, and generally in a way that humans don't appreciate.
posted by Humanzee at 1:25 PM on November 2, 2006


Hang on, if there are no longer fish in the sea, then according to Archimedes' principle, the sea will be lower, and then if the icecaps melt we'll be ok!
posted by randomination at 1:26 PM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


Didn't Darwin kinda sorta prove this a couple of hundred years ago?

He sure did, and boy it sure is a good thing speciation is nigh on to instantaneous, ain't it? I can starve for a few hundred years with no problem, but start getting up into the thousands and I'm a tad irritable.

...anyway, them dang humans were just too impatient to wait around while their ecosystem recovered. If they'd had the attention span of you or I they'd have realized they could just ride it out for a few hundred years and they'd have been fine!

But, I 'spose, 'twas for the best. After all, now we got this fine ball o' rock to ourselves. With free fallout to boot, and the only drawback is all these bones underfoot! These are good times, boy, good times.
posted by aramaic at 1:29 PM on November 2, 2006


I just saw Gungho's comment. That's absurd. I've certainly never seen a scientist say that we're facing a disaster with too many species, or that we weren't fishing enough. The decline of fish catches has been known (even among fisherman) for a long time.

Oh, and maybe try reading what Darwin said before you start talking about what he "proved".
posted by Humanzee at 1:30 PM on November 2, 2006


So long, and thanks for all the.... oh.

without them the seas return to primordial slop and humans starve

the idea of decimating the life in that ocean pretty much means the complete breakdown of the planetary food chain

Can someone explain these statements on a 'for dummies' level? I certainly see the value in preserving ocean ecosystems for their own sake, but how exactly would their breakdown have such a devastating impact on land? (No snark here, just ignorance.)
posted by Urban Hermit at 1:30 PM on November 2, 2006


IMHO The little fishees will just move to whatever microclimate suits them and go on making other little fishees. Didn't Darwin kinda sorta prove this a couple of hundred years ago?

Heh. Well, you assume there is an abundance of each microclimate -- many copies of the same conditions, same food, same depth, same turbidity, same salinity, same non-human predation -- and that fish populations could survive the migration through hostile climates to hospitable ones. Neither is the case.

Science is discovering is that ocean ecosystems are far more complex and delicate than we ever imagined. They are also limited. Most ocean life exists only in a tiny fraction of the ocean's space and volume -- near shorelines, on coastal shelves and on banks. The part of the ocean that produces life is very small in relation to the whole, and very close to human activity. It's not as though fish have the whole ocean to choose from. Most of the ocean, surprisingly, is actually akin to desert -- not much in the way of available nutrition. Something like 90% of existing ocean life is within 200 miles of shore, where estuaries act as a nursery system for delicate larval organisms, nutrients wash off of land in the coastal plain into the near-shore zone, shallower waters allow greater penetration of sunlight (which supports the growth of phytoplankton), and waters are warmer.

There's tremendous variety in oceanic ecosystems, easily evidenced by simple facts like the way we eat lobster a lot here in Maine but they eat crab a lot down in Maryland. Shellfish and fish depend on highly specific temperatures, concentrations of chemicals, and food supplies. They can't just move it along to the next buffet line.
posted by Miko at 1:33 PM on November 2, 2006 [2 favorites]


I'm no scientician, but you don't need to be to gather a lot of local (albeit anecdotal) evidence that this sort of thing is occuring all of the place. My example; when I was a kid I used to fish off a pier for perch in Grand Bend, Ontario. They were so plentiful that my father, grandfather, brother and me would sometime catch dozens over the course of an afternoon. Once, my brother caught three at a time on a tri-pronged hook. Last summer I was in the area and decided to check out the ol' pier, which was standing room only on nice afternoons back in the day. There were only a couple of old-timers with their lines cast, and the one I talked to said there were so few fish left that it was pretty much a waste of time.
posted by you just lost the game at 1:45 PM on November 2, 2006


don't we farm a signifcant amount of our seafood? i imagine as long is there is demand, there will be a supply, even if they're genetically-engineered supertuna with wasabi glands.
posted by gnutron at 1:51 PM on November 2, 2006


He lives like a worm. He likes to play the drums.
posted by unknowncommand at 1:57 PM on November 2, 2006


I knew the world was heading for problems when years ago I opened a can of sardines and found that they had all lost their eyes.
posted by Postroad at 1:58 PM on November 2, 2006


don't we farm a signifcant amount of our seafood? i imagine as long is there is demand, there will be a supply, even if they're genetically-engineered supertuna with wasabi glands.

Yes. And since we farm deer and bison and turkeys now, we can clear out the last of them and then chop down all the forests, right? Because we don't depend on them for anything else, and they play no other role in the global ecosystem.

....?

In other words, it's not the shortage of seafood that's concerning. It's the fish as a bellwether of total environmental collapse in the oceans.
posted by Miko at 2:02 PM on November 2, 2006


Urban Hermit: Can someone explain these statements on a 'for dummies' level?

If there's few fish left to catch, there may not be enough food for everyone, ergo people starve.

If there's not enough food from the sea, we eat more from the land, further destroying land ecosystems.

If there's no food in the sea, coastal ecosystems the depend on sea food will collapse - birds, and so on. Moreover, the upsetting of delicate ecosystems has knock-on effects on other local ecosystem (as I think Miko explains).

Also remember the seas and the rivers are connected, removing coastal ecosystems will alter rivers and lakes, again having a knock-effect on connected land systems.

Also "Coastal habitats are crucial biofilters that keep harmful pollutants and excessive nutrients from reaching the ocean and the Great Lakes. Already, chemical pollutants that mimic reproductive hormones threaten marine life and pose a health risk to seafood consumers."
posted by MetaMonkey at 2:06 PM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


Actually, what people are saying is that it's already too far gone to avoid.

Cool. Then I'm not gonna worry about it.
posted by Snyder at 2:08 PM on November 2, 2006


One big part of the problem is rogue fishing operations under flags of convenience. These allow countries which nominally abide by international conventions to flout them. Eg, a Japanese trawler will be registered in Togo and operate in the Southern Ocean, going after toothfish. It's very hard to enforce against these guys while they're on the water, and somehow (*snicker*) the fish finds its way back to a home market for sale.

The whole MO of certain countries (well, most countries) is to stall and prevaricate and wriggle on agreements so their guys can get as much fish as possible before they're gone. Then, when the fishery has disappeared, they agree to not take any more.

I used to make a little joke about how the Japanese love nature: it's delicious. But it's not really very funny any more. (And the rest of the world is almost as bad, the Japanese are just slightly more open about prioritising their citizens' desire for fish over all other considerations).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:19 PM on November 2, 2006


IMHO The little fishees will just move to whatever microclimate suits them and go on making other little fishees.

And humans will show up shortly thereafter. With nets.
posted by Malor at 2:23 PM on November 2, 2006


Top of the food chain, baby.
posted by smackfu at 2:26 PM on November 2, 2006


Illegal fishing.

Australian Fish Police.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:27 PM on November 2, 2006


For those that want it, here's a link to the actual Science article.

"Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services"

Human-dominated marine ecosystems are experiencing accelerating loss of populations and species, with largely unknown consequences. We analyzed local experiments, long-term regional time series, and global fisheries data to test how biodiversity loss affects marine ecosystem services across temporal and spatial scales. Overall, rates of resource collapse increased and recovery potential, stability, and water quality decreased exponentially with declining diversity. Restoration of biodiversity, in contrast, increased productivity fourfold and decreased variability by 21%, on average. We conclude that marine biodiversity loss is increasingly impairing the ocean's capacity to provide food, maintain water quality, and recover from perturbations. Yet available data suggest that at this point, these trends are still reversible.
posted by redbeard at 2:27 PM on November 2, 2006


Yet available data suggest that at this point, these trends are still reversible.

OK snyder. You can start worrying again.
posted by Miko at 2:30 PM on November 2, 2006


Urban Hermit:
For a specific example of the effect a lack of fish would have on land ecosystems, think of salmon and grizzlies. Salmon live most of there lives in the ocean, then travel upstream to spawn. Bears catch and eat them in huge quantities, and the fatty fish helps them build up an energy supply for hibernation. Without that major food source, I bet you'd see a lot of bears killing other animals to get fat and protein, and quite possibly coming into dangerous contact with humans a great deal more. And if the stress proves too much and the bears start dying out, that's a top predator gone from the food chain in the Pacific Northwest, which would have far-reaching consequences of its own.
posted by hippugeek at 2:36 PM on November 2, 2006


A useful book for those interested in this subject.
posted by No Robots at 3:02 PM on November 2, 2006


The only chance for the fish is that before they're all eaten...

The only chance is to be eaten first!
posted by brownpau at 3:04 PM on November 2, 2006


Denial is always a comfortable position.
posted by stbalbach at 3:05 PM on November 2, 2006


I guess we'll just have to switch to eating whales and sharks and rays, or something.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:09 PM on November 2, 2006


Anybody remember that science finction where only one seventh the world population is active at a time while the other hibernates? You live every monday, or every tuesday, etc but sleep all the other days of the week. Most dwellings are shared excelpt for the sleeping chambers.

I propose we do that. Only with me in charge.
posted by tkchrist at 3:28 PM on November 2, 2006


I guess we'll just have to switch to eating whales and sharks and rays, or something.

Jellyfish, actually. You'll find abundance down the food chain as the oceans turn to slime.
posted by hal9k at 3:28 PM on November 2, 2006



don't we farm a signifcant amount of our seafood? i imagine as long is there is demand, there will be a supply, even if they're genetically-engineered supertuna with wasabi glands.

I may be missing your point, but if you're saying there should still be plenty of fish from farms even if there aren't any in the oceans, I don't think that works. They feed farmed fish with ocean fish- something like two or three pounds of herring to produce one pound of salmon.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:35 PM on November 2, 2006


You'll find abundance down the food chain as the oceans turn to slime.

mmm...krill...
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:42 PM on November 2, 2006


Denial is always a comfortable position.

I tought it was only a river in Egypt ?
posted by elpapacito at 3:46 PM on November 2, 2006


I think getting away from dragging the bottom and back to tackle fishing would be a step in the right direction.
posted by caddis at 3:56 PM on November 2, 2006


So if it's still reversible, let's reverse it and all the other dreadful human-caused disasters while we can. All that's required is to eliminate three fourths of the planet's human overburden and put the remainder back to the pre-industrial stage of culture. Piece of cake. And we certainly better do it soon because if we don't, 75% of the people alive now will die and the rest will become savages picking through the rubble.
posted by jfuller at 3:58 PM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


Anybody remember

Dayworld?

Alot of people eat alot of fish. Everywhere I have been that people eat wild fish they are experiencing a reduction in stock size and availability.

According to some theories the human race populated the planet by following the coastline eating seafood. An lifestyle that is not going to be available for many years.
posted by asok at 4:01 PM on November 2, 2006


As another followup to Urban Hermit's question, and hippogreek's comment, there was recently a program on Nature (I can't seem to find the episode on the Nature website) that talked about salmon and their effect on the ecosystem. Basically, after coming back up the river to spawn/get eaten by bears, they are exhausted and then die. From there, scavengers like wolves, crows, and other animals eat or pull out the salmon carcasses into the woods. The carcasses both biodegrade, adding nitrogen, a necessary plant nutrient to the soil, and also become a home for maggots, which turn into flies, providing food for birds. This happens every season, and without it, the ecosystem would be completely different. The most interesting fact that was given by one of the scientists was that you could climb up one of the old growth spruce, far away from the river, and pluck out a single needle from the top of the tree, and send it to a lab, and they could find evidence of salmon-based nitrogen in it.

Here's a website on salmon from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and a relevant paragraph:

"When we talk about the survival of wild salmon, we are also talking about the survival of the natural heritage of the Pacific Northwest. When thousands of mature salmon spawn and die, they do far more than produce another generation. This source of nutrition, arriving in the fall, allows many animals to survive the harshness of winter. Where salmon runs have become extinct, the local ecosystem suffers. Species such as bear, eagle, mink and river otter suffer large population losses. Other species show less dramatic, but significant declines. The result is a permanently altered ecosystem. Wild salmon are quite literally the energy that fuels our natural environment."
posted by wander at 4:10 PM on November 2, 2006


I have an article in the process of publication on the harmful effects of EU fishing activity in West Africa. Those interested in some concrete scientific data on this particular portion of the larger picture being addressed in the Science article should see:

Brashares, Justin S., Peter Arcese, Moses K. Sam, Peter B. Coppolillo, A. R. E. Sinclair, and Andrew Balmford. “Bushmeat Hunting, Wildlife Declines, and Fish Supply in West Africa.” Science. Vol 306, Issue 5699, 1180-1183 , 12 November 2004

Kaczynski, Vlad and David Fluharty. “European policies in West Africa: who benefits from fisheries agreements?”Marine Policy. 26. 2003.

Alder, Jacqueline and Ussif Sumaila. “Western Africa: A Fish Basket of Europe Past and Present.” Journal of Environment & Development. 2 June 2004.

Pretty much anyone on a university network should have full-text access to many of these.

A good recent book on this topic, albeit a somewhat journalistic one, is:

Clover, Charles. The End of the Line: How Overfishing is Changing the World and What We Eat. London: Random House Press. 2004.
posted by sindark at 4:21 PM on November 2, 2006


there was recently a program on Nature ...

You may be thinking of The Nature of Things.
posted by sfenders at 4:27 PM on November 2, 2006


god DAMN i'm hungry for some salmon right now
posted by radiosig at 4:31 PM on November 2, 2006


Happy to not be part of the problem.

Dude, unless all your food is bioregional, you're still part.

Just a different part.
posted by poweredbybeard at 4:52 PM on November 2, 2006


Also, I feel compelled to point out that the central point of the paper at Science is not the 2048 figure. That's a throwaway line (probably designed to be picked up by the press -which it has) - the CENTRAL point, which is really really interesting is that biodiversity is critically important for the functioning of ecosystems and the services they provide for humans. In other words, it's not just about how much fish you have in the oceans, it's about how many SPECIES you have, and every time you knock out a species, be it through overfishing, global warming, pollution, invasive species, or more, you are fundamentally altering the functioning of an ecosystem, even if the total number or biomass of critters stays the same.

This is true in controlled experiments. This is also true when you look at patterns from a wide variety of large data sets. And marine protected areas seem to lead to an increase in the number of species, and hence, a reversal in the fortunes for the sea.

This is huge. As someone interested in diversity research, that this pattern is so consistent both in experiments and the natural world is phenomenally amazing, and kind of shocking in terms of how clear the result is. The MPA result is also a wake-up call as to how effective they can be and how reversable some of the damage can be.

The 2048 thing? Splashy and media-worthy. The actual message of the paper? Deeply important and worth serious consideration.
posted by redbeard at 5:04 PM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


"On the plus side, I'm sure we'll be able to get our daily zymoveal from the section kitchen."

Don't forget yeast-nut cake, and chicken Tuesdays! :)

Too many people = very soon not very many people at all. Just ask your local Petri dish full of bacteria.
posted by zoogleplex at 5:17 PM on November 2, 2006


What if I like the taste of sucker fish ant limpets?
posted by Balisong at 5:22 PM on November 2, 2006


This reminds me of when I saw soylent green as a kid, my Dad said it would not get that bad and people would fix it before it became unbearable. I guess he thought others were as decent as him. I wonder what the hell haliburton green will taste like.
posted by Iron Rat at 5:29 PM on November 2, 2006


When we talk about the survival of wild salmon, we are also talking about the survival of the natural heritage of the Pacific Northwest.

The bodies of the salmon, which die in huge numbers, also fertilize the forest, and loss of the salmon would have a huge impact on the ability of the trees and other plants to flourish. There are many tree species in this area (coastal BC), such as the arbutus, which are already under huge stress due to drought. All the arbutus trees that I know of around the city parks and woods are dying.

If plankton collapses, the whole ocean-dependant food chain does. And plankton also does other nice stuff, like make oxygen. From the sounds of things, we're looking at an ocean filled with toxic algae blooms and stinging jellyfish. *weeps*
posted by jokeefe at 6:06 PM on November 2, 2006


Personally, I'm looking forward to catching and eating humans.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 8:11 PM on November 2, 2006


sorry, jedi are not allowed such luxeries
posted by caddis at 8:14 PM on November 2, 2006


Australian Fish Police.

I like that -- "catching and destroying illegal fishing vessels" -- because people who care only about what will give them cash now need to start looking at poaching as a very bad investment.

Likewise, pay people -- preferably people with some local power -- to support certain local animal populations. Tell them you will pay them X dollars a quarter if the population of certain beasts in their lake or river or forest or reserve stays at or above a certain level. Agree on how it will be measured, come in regularly to do the measuring with them and make the payments, but otherwise stand back. Let them be activists as they see fit, preferably without breaking too many laws. Or fingers.
posted by pracowity at 12:20 AM on November 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


Everything's fine. When commodities get scarce, humans are always willing to cut back on their consumption and share with others, right? It's not like there will be wars or anything.

posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:47 AM PST on November 2
Perhaps not eponysterical, but eponymically apt.
posted by eritain at 12:44 AM on November 3, 2006


Excuse me, but is this the thread where I point out that George HW Bush founded Zapata, later to be a big mover and shaker in the 'fish protein' market?
posted by rough ashlar at 6:19 AM on November 3, 2006


All that's required is to eliminate three fourths of the planet's human overburden and put the remainder back to the pre-industrial stage of culture.

Well then luckily there are people working towards this end.
posted by Tubes at 10:00 AM on November 3, 2006


god DAMN i'm hungry for some salmon right now

Don't you mean god DAM? Because if we want salmon to survive in the US Pacific Northwest, we better start taking some down right now. We could start with the Columbia River (salmon populations 2% of historical levels, 8 subspecies of salmon and steelhead endangered).
posted by salvia at 11:26 AM on November 3, 2006


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