Complete collapse
February 21, 2002 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Complete collapse of North Atlantic fishing predicted. North Atlantic catches have fallen by half since 1950, despite a tripling of the effort put into catching them. "We'll all be eating jellyfish sandwiches."
posted by uftheory (20 comments total)
The article says government subsidies for North Atlantic fishing total $2.5 billion per year. Holy crap. They're never going to reduce the number of boats unless that number comes down.
posted by Potsy at 9:09 AM on February 21, 2002

let me get this straight...

they have tripled the effort.....

and now there are no fish...

why are they surprised?
posted by Frasermoo at 9:15 AM on February 21, 2002

North Atlantic catches have fallen by half since 1950...

Which is one of the reasons why there has been such an effort to find other sources, including Orange Roughy, which was not seen on the dinner table until relatively recently. However, if you scroll down the page, you will notice that roughy are thought to live up to 150 years and do not begin to breed until they are 25-30 years old. Even though there are efforts to establish sustainability, it is damn difficult to achieve with a fish that breeds so late.

<voice class="sarcasm">So, if we overfish in one place, no problem! Just pack up the nets and find some other species until it is hunted to extinction, then move on!</voice>
posted by Avogadro at 9:18 AM on February 21, 2002

This has been an ongoing issue of great magnitude here in New England for at least the last ten years. A few years ago the feds even bought up some fishing boats and resold them to fishermen in South America to try to get the fishermen to stop fishing.

The fishermen continue to fight back with determination. For every study like this one, they'll point you to one that says the stocks can come back and already are.

I suppose before I can even post this the usual conservative/libertarian crowd will rush in here and bitch about pointy-headed liberals and "who cares if there aren't any fish" and "jobs jobs jobs".....sigh....
posted by briank at 9:27 AM on February 21, 2002

mmmmmmmmmmm..... Jelly Fish Sandwiches.....
posted by Blake at 9:37 AM on February 21, 2002

Make mine a peanut butter and jellyfish sandwich, please.
posted by crunchland at 9:39 AM on February 21, 2002

The fishermen continue to fight back with determination. For every study like this one, they'll point you to one that says the stocks can come back and already are.

I'd be interested in seeing just such a study, though I must admit that I would be skeptical. If there isn't a problem, then why is the market acting as if there is?
posted by Avogadro at 9:52 AM on February 21, 2002

I suppose before I can even post this the usual conservative/libertarian crowd will rush in here and bitch...

Personally, I think the smartest fish will just fake their own extinction for ten thousand years or so, and come back after the humans have left.

If only the trolls would do the same.
posted by coelecanth at 9:56 AM on February 21, 2002

Well, this 'usual conservative/libertarian crowd' will make comments about the 'Tragedy of the Commons', note how this tragedy can be averted by the institution of private property, note how open-sea fishing is essentially the same as the hunting-gathering that sustained small human tribes in prehistoric times, and how this gave way to the more efficient concept of 'farming', and further note that this process is already well under way for fish.

We are lamenting that our traditional hunter-gatherer economy of the sea is failing. No kidding. Its failure is spurring the creation of a fishing economy more efficient and more sustainable.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 10:02 AM on February 21, 2002

we are farming north sea fish now, such as the cod. elsewhere, other innovative ideas have been implemented.
briank - i am sure the fishermen can manage to convince themselves that stocks are returning, but the scientific community is not convinced.

to add a personal note - i now only eat fish very occasionally. i have had the best fish'n'chips in the world (so far) locally, and it is a bane to avoid the temptation.
this sea change (well, you would, wouldn't you?) in my diet is largely due to the 'blue planet' series shown by the bbc last year. i figured that i would like to be able to see 'blue planet 2' in 25 years time, and say to my children - when i was a lad all this was overfished, but now it's a perfectly balanced eco-system again.
i managed to get one last meal in at this fantastic fish restuarant before i got the knowledge, and relinquished my fishy fancies.
oh, and no prawns for me please!
posted by asok at 10:06 AM on February 21, 2002

Don't get me wrong, asok and others, I firmly believe the studies that show the fishing stocks are depleted. My point was only that the fishermen (at least the ones here in New England, who are most responsible for North Atlantic fishing), aren't giving up without a fight, and it's probably only making the situation worse.
posted by briank at 10:19 AM on February 21, 2002

Fishing like almost any industry is self-regulating. If there are no fish to catch there is no money to be made going after them (excluding subsidies that only the huge corporate owned boats get.)

Microscopic life called plankton form the very lifeblood of the sea. With out it there would be no life. It never ceases to amaze me in the literally thousands of articles that talk about “over fishing” never once to they mention pollution or the impact it has on plankton. Not a word about dumping billions of gallons of sewage into the ocean on a daily basis. Or anything about the paving over of estuaries where a huge amount of marine life is spawned. Pesticides, fertilizers, and plenty of other poisons compose urban run off yet are never cited.

A big reason for this is environmental groups don’t find these causes as sexy for fund raising. Not when they can show videotapes of huge fishing boats and their miles of nets. With all their talk about saving the ocean, I find their convenient lapse of judgment and mis education of the public as dangerous as to the ocean as a gross polluter or a two hundred foot trawler with ten miles of nets.
posted by keithl at 10:19 AM on February 21, 2002

Ocean Trust is an industry-supported "managed conservation" advocacy group which sponsors a "Census of the Fishes" project that relies on sea sampling, a disputed methodology for determining fishing stock sizes but one that is generally supported by the fishing and seafood processing industries.

On this page you can see a chart where they assert that only 6% of fishing stocks are depleted and that 3% are "recovering".

They also make the following assertion on the same page:

"In spite of well-publicized regional fluctuations, the state of world fisheries has remained stable since the early 1990’s with 75% of stocks fished at or below sustainable levels (44% at MSY Sustainable Yields, 23% Moderately Fished and 9% Under Fished)."

While they don't come right out and deny that fishing stocks are collapsing, they are definitely trying to spin the data to justify ongoing overfishing.
posted by briank at 11:00 AM on February 21, 2002

Makes me even happier that my meals usually consist of beef and/or eggs.
posted by davidmsc at 11:11 AM on February 21, 2002

My meals consist solely of beef eggs.
posted by websavvy at 11:32 AM on February 21, 2002

No more fish? Cool! I've always wondered what would happen if you knock 15 or 20 links out of a food chain.

Perhaps the Atlantic can turn bright green with un-predated plankton. Then perhaps the plankton can consume all the oxygen in the water!

Then the titanic won't rust nearly so fast! Yay!

Next stop: Soylent Green

Man, are us humans asking for a big cull or what?
posted by BentPenguin at 12:28 PM on February 21, 2002

Let's "harvest". Let us line our pockets or pantries or amuse ourselves off the pain and suffering of those less powerful than we.

Yeah, let's "harvest"...and see what the "harvest" becomes now.

Reap the whirlwind.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 12:29 PM on February 21, 2002

*Rolls eyes*

f_and_m could use some ominous piano chords, a smoke machine, and a swirly black cape if anyone can spare them.
posted by Skot at 12:37 PM on February 21, 2002

keithl, you make some good points. Closing off huge tracts of the open ocean is probably not the best solution. Enforcement of such closures would be problematic at best. As you noted, many species are spawned and grow to maturity in shallow waters. Coral reefs and estuaries need better protection - from overfishing, development and pollution.

I found this rather interesting list of Marine Fisheries managed sites. But it's a difficult job - do you ban all activities? all types of fishing? all species? Most of the limitations (if any) are on fishing and not on development or pollution - but I guess that would be outside their jurisdiction.

Here in FL, a ban on the use of nets over 500 sq. ft., in inshore waters, was added to the state constitution - a voter initiative approved by majority. (See? We do get it right once in awhile!) Many fishermen responded by towing sheets of screen material to the back of their boats, claiming it didn't fit the legal definition of a net. And judges in many such cases are sympathetic to commercial fishing interests.

I guess when Mrs. Paul's fish sticks are $20 per pound we'll become more concerned...
posted by groundhog at 12:40 PM on February 21, 2002

Don't blame me. I'm allergic to fish food.

Maybe we should all be vegeterian for a whole generation. But the fast-food and meat lobbies will kill that idea.
posted by Baud at 2:35 PM on February 21, 2002

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