Sustainability is the cry, but just how sustainable is most of the world. Fishing is one example of an area where a lot is being said but not enough done. The supply of wild fish has been on the decline since around 1970. Increasing population does not help but essentially, we are failing to govern the planet. We have enough fish to eat but the unsustainable fish farm fills the gap. Our bluefin tuna outcries have been long and lasting, but their last few species are now disappearing.
In the US and the UK 2 portions of fish per week (280g) are a recommended health aid. Australia, New Zealand, Estonia and Greece recommend even more. Where the sea is the only provider of regular animal protein, this situation is compounded. Declining fish stocks mean that the enormous 85-95m tonnes of fish caught worldwide in the 1990s would now no longer serve the increasing population. In addition many nations now import much more than 50% of their fish, with the US on 91%.
The tragedy of cod, Gadus morhua, has left us with a sustainability credibility–gap and most populations of the fish still classified as vulnerable. Bluefin tuna have had many more appeals for protection than the cod ever had. Disappointingly, the Pacific bluefin (Thunnus orientalis population is now down to a ridiculous 40,000 in the wild and 90% are juvenile. The influence of NOAA on the US government means that any caught in the future will soon have to be released immediately, but that will hardly help with other nations on the high seas. The challenge is stopping the Japanese and other industries from removing the last individuals for sushi.
The Atlantic (Thunnus thunnus) and southern bluefin (Thunnus maccoyii) tuna are already protected, while the formerly thriving Pacific Bluefin has been
until recently. These species reach 10feet (3m) in length and represent the supreme example of speed merchants in the mackerel (scombrid) family, with warm blood and recognised intelligence. We should be studying them instead of eating them at a cost of up to $70,000 each for a 500lb specimen! $1.76million was once paid for a fish, with 90%b of the consumption of all tuna within Japan.
What is really needed with many of these fish species is a complete suspension of fishing for several years.. There has been no agreement this year on any conservation measures, so the fishermen themselves are failing us. The ocean belongs to those who can sustain it, not destroy its residents, with the Smart Fishing Initiative Coordinator, Pablo Guerrero, quoting, “Only a 50 percent reduction of catches and stringent measures to protect juveniles can ensure a long-term sustainability of this fishery.” That would of course mean almost stopping the industry, which Japan, Korea, Mexico and the US don’t seem able to do. Mexico has stopped fishing for the rest of this year, after its 5000 tonne limit was reached, but that will hardly enlighten the others who don’t stick to their own limits.
Fish worldwide then are on the way out. When new species replace the overfished and the extinct, the tuna tell us that these species again will be wiped out. It won’t be very long before we are back to the days of monks who kept carp in monasteries and harvested them sustainably from these early fish farms. The effective disease spreading and genetic neutering of wild populations by fish farm escapees and the many other problems of aquaculture will soon be a thing of the past as the only fish are the farmed variety. Enjoy your nutritious fish meal while you can! A good UK perspective can be found in the ever-readable Ecologist magazine here as,
Plenty more fish in the sea -NOT!