Humans eliminated 90% of oceans' fish by 2003, aiming for 95% by 2013

Many people believe the oceans are far too vast for humans to have much impact.

They are dead wrong. Between 1950 and 2003, humans caused the populations of most large fish species to plunge by 90%:

“From giant blue marlin to mighty bluefin tuna, and from tropical groupers to Antarctic cod, industrial fishing has scoured the global ocean. There is no blue frontier left,” said lead author Ransom Myers, a fisheries biologist based at Dalhousie University in Canada. “Since 1950, with the onset of industrialized fisheries, we have rapidly reduced the resource base to less than 10 percent—not just in some areas, not just for some stocks, but for entire communities of these large fish species from the tropics to the poles.”

The problem continues intensifying, as Japan demonstrates:

[Japan]’s voracious appetite for eel and other fish has depleted the ocean’s supplies and raised international outcries to halt Japan’s overfishing…

Dramatically lower eel catches from local river habitats have led to an overwhelming dependency on expensive fish farms and imports, forcing restaurants like Takayasu’s out of business.

Last year, for instance, eelers caught 267 tons from natural habitats, a drop of two-thirds from the amount caught a decade earlier, according to the Nihon Yoshoku Shinbun, a publication that tracks marine resources. Last year’s catch was less than 1% of the nearly 35,000 tons consumed; farming provided nearly 11,000 tons, and imports from China and Taiwan accounted for the remainder, the publication said….

The Fisheries Agency of Japan said the market for domestic fish in 2008 dropped to $11.7 billion, down more than one-third from $18.8 billion a decade earlier, based on current exchange rates. The agency also has warned that half of the marine resources in the waters surrounding Japan have dropped drastically in the last two decades.

For example, less than 20,000 tons of horse mackerel, a fish widely eaten because of its affordable prices, is caught annually, down from 70,000 tons in 1991. And Pacific saury, a fall delicacy, is now fetching as much as $8 a fish — eight times as much as two years ago.

The government agency attributed the low catches to rising sea temperatures that are affecting spawning and growth of fish and to overfishing.

If we lost 90% of fish from 1950 through early 2003 and if Japan’s fishing catch is falling by roughly 50% a decade, we’ll have eliminated about 95% of fish from our seas by 2013.

The same people who assume oceans are too gigantic for humans to substantially impact also argue the Earth is too enormous for humans to substantially change Earth’s climate. Even in the face of overwhelming statistical evidence proving their assumptions utterly wrong, these people cling blindly to their (society-destroying?) beliefs.

Humans' ability to ignore or wish away even dire global problems is why I’m so pessimistic about our collective future.

Posted by James on Wednesday, September 08, 2010