I’ve read the stories on and off for some time: Unless things change, our oceans could be out of fish by 2050.
The latest report from the United Nations says that, according to current estimates, a fish-less world is quite possible within 40 years unless stocks are allowed to recover:
According to the UN, 30 percent of fish stocks have already collapsed, meaning they yield less than 10 percent of their former potential, while virtually all fisheries risk running out of commercially viable catches by 2050.
Currently only a quarter of fish stocks — mostly the cheaper, less desirable species — are considered to be in healthy numbers.
The main scourge, the UNEP report says, are government subsidies encouraging ever bigger fishing fleets chasing ever fewer fish, with little attempt made to allow the fish populations to recover.
In March, a proposal to ban trade on bluefin tuna — an endangered species — was defeated because of powerful lobbying by Japan and other bluefin tuna-consuming countries.
The viability of the fishing industry affects nations around the globe. Fish is the main animal protein for about a billion people, mostly in poor countries. A UN report called “The Green Economy” estimates there are “35 million people fishing around the world on 20 million boats. About 170 million jobs depend directly or indirectly on the sector, bringing the total web of people financially linked to 520 million.”
There are hopeful signs, however, and many countries are revising their policies:
Creating marine preservation areas to allow female fish to grow to full size, thereby hugely increasing their fertility, is one vital solution, the report says.
Another is restructuring the fishing fleets to favor smaller boats that — once fish stocks recover — would be able to land bigger catches.
“What is scarce here is fish,” Sukhdev said, “not the stock of fishing capacity.”