The Fisheries Are Collapsing from Commerical-Industrial Fishing by Danny Quintana
We are going to close off the high seas to industrial commercial fishing. We will either volunteer or we will kill off all of the fish. The problem is pretty straight forward. People in the developed world are killing the oceans so they can have a food choice, not out of necessity but simply to choose a seafood delicacy as an expensive meal. Without government subsidies and consumers in rich countries buying endangered sea wildlife, the oceans would not be in such major trouble. The majority of fish stocks worldwide are in decline. This problem can be solved.
Governments need to ban the sale of endangered fish within their jurisdictions and consumers need to be educated about this problem. We are hosting the world’s first panel discussion on saving the oceans one city at a time. Our success here in Salt Lake will be carried forward to other cities all over the developed world. Salt Lake needs to become the world’s first sustainable seafood city. If people stop buying ivory poachers will stop killing elephants. If consumers in rich countries stop buying endangered seafood, a tiny handful of rich companies will quit killing the beautiful wildlife under the waves.
The Problem: The Fisheries Are Collapsing
The industrialization of commercial fishing, long lining, by-catch, shark finning and waste of the actual catch as well as pollution is destroying the wildlife in the oceans. Large predator populations have declined nearly 90 percent. Although some studies predict we will run out of wild fish as food by 2048, it is happening much faster as the world’s population is increasing at 80-100 million people per year.3 As the economies in the developing world grow, this increased economic activity will accelerate the decline of the fisheries.
Every year the commercial fishing industry discards 40 to 60 billion pounds of fish as by-catch because it was not the species that was being targeted. This is obviously not sustainable. It is also immoral. The entire planet is being adversely impacted by over fishing. When the catch is finally brought to shore, much of it is wasted. If a grocery store does not sell their seafood within days of the catch they dump it in the garbage. This waste leads to a cycle of further decimating the fisheries.
Since 1970 half of the world’s wildlife and approximately 40 percent of the ocean life have been slaughtered. In this short 45 years the world’s population has increased from 4 billion to over 7.4 billion. By 2050 the world’s population is projected to increase to over 9 billion. Given the reality of population growth, increased economic activity in the developing world as well as the effects of wasteful by-catch if we do not stop this decimation, it is estimated that the oceans will be fished out of wild catch by 2048. However, we believe the collapse will occur much earlier. We have passed the tipping point. The fish stocks are collapsing. The public in the developed world does not understand the seriousness of this impending conservation and humanitarian disaster.
All of us in the environmental movement are aware of what shark finning, long lining, drift nets, by-catch as well as industrial commercial fishing is doing to the oceans. The real question is, what are environmental organizations, foundations and conservation groups going to do about it NOW? In spite of their vastness, the oceans are not limitless.
The Global High Seas Marine Preserve has started a global media campaign to create awareness among young people in the developed world about the collapse of the fisheries. Young people must be informed about this problem to ensure that they understand the tragedy and seriousness of the issue. It is their future that is at stake. They, like all of us, can’t allow the fish stocks to be destroyed.
Despite the emergence of a Global Ocean Commission and the passage of numerous international agreements, and some close to shore marine preserves, these individual piece meal efforts are not working – the fish stocks continue to collapse at an ever increasing rate. Less than three percent of the ocean is off limits to industrial commercial fishing. To fight this impending disaster we are proposing the creation of a Global High Seas Marine Preserve to place 70 percent of the oceans off limits to industrial commercial fishing. This restriction is absolutely necessary to put nature and humans back in balance.
Approximately half of the population of the planet lives within 100 miles from the oceans. Over 1 billion people in the developing world depend on seafood for protein. This major food source cannot be destroyed without serious political repercussions. The protein will have to be replaced. If or when the fisheries collapse, there will inevitably be mass starvation, violence and political turmoil in all of the affected areas. Many large indigenous communities in Africa, Central and South America and Asia depend on the seas not only for food but for their livelihood.
Commercial Industrial Fishing
The global commercial production for human use of fish and other aquatic organisms occurs in two ways: they are either captured wild by commercial fishing or they are cultivated and harvested using aquacultural and farming techniques.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the world production in 2005 consisted of 93.2 million tons captured by commercial fishing in wild fisheries, plus 48.1 million tons produced by fish farms. In addition, 1.3 million tons of aquatic plants (seaweed etc.) were captured in wild fisheries and 14.8 million tons were produced by aquaculture. The number of individual fish caught in the wild has been estimated at 0.97-2.7 trillion per year (not counting fish farms or marine invertebrates).
The major changes that have brought about the decline of the fisheries are population growth and the advent of massive industrial trawlers that can catch 200 to 500 tons of fish per day – fishing 24 hours a day for weeks at time. These trawlers have nets that are large enough to fit two 747 airliners. They kill everything in their path. They are the equivalent of hunting deer with an M1 tank. The fish don’t stand a chance. Worse yet, these trawlers are not profitable without government subsidies.
These industrial trawlers can empty out a fishery in relatively short order. Super trawlers are able to stay out at sea for weeks at a time and travel to any part of the planet. No fishery is safe from these killing machines. Some countries have denied licenses to these ships to fish in their waters. But this does not stop them from fishing in the high seas where nation states do not have control.
Furthermore piracy with these trawlers exacerbates the problem. Piracy occurs where the trawlers fish illegal and do not identify or count the catch because it is transferred to other ships at sea. Piracy is difficult to detect and even more difficult to stop under current treaties since there is no global law enforcement. Only through creating a Global High Seas Marine Preserve and establishing joint enforcement rights can we possibly stem the problem.
The explosion in global population growth in the last 200 years is at the heart of the collapse of the fisheries. Two hundred years ago, in the early 1800s, the ocean going vessels were made out of wood and used sails for power. Radar, sonar and spotter planes had not been invented yet. The use of fossil fuels for industry had not occurred as industrialization was in its infancy. Plastics had not been invented. Agriculture did not use industrial commercial fertilizers. The runoffs from rivers next to large human populations did not yet create dead zones in the oceans. Most people lived in rural agricultural farming communities. Mega-cities did not exist. Two centuries ago there were numerous places on the planet where wild game both on land and at sea were abundant and the human population stood at approximately 1 billion.
In a short span of 216 years the planet’s population has exploded to over 7.4 billion. Technology and population growth have decidedly tipped the scales against nature. Today, as rivers empty into the oceans, they create dead zones all over our now tiny planet. Consequently, the wildlife both on land and in the oceans has been decimated. From wild elephants to whales, from mountain gorillas to blue fin tuna, species are being hunted and slaughtered to extinction. Two centuries ago people ate what they were able to grow and wild meat added protein to their diets.
Obviously urbanization and industrialization changed consumption habits. Today, people in the developed world can decide on numerous choices of food. From Thai to Mexican, to Japanese sushi, Indian food, or whatever the consumer is in the mood for, there are almost infinite choices. Fish from endangered stocks or declining fisheries does not have to be one of these food choices. This will be an integral part of our marketing campaign to educate consumers on safe sea food choice.
There is no reason for people in the developed world to consume endangered fish species. A significant cause of the collapse of the global fisheries is the developed world’s poor food choices in consuming declining stocks. If people in the developed world knew they were eating endangered animals, there is a greater likelihood that they would stop or at least decrease their consumption. That is the purpose of this marketing campaign. We seek to change first world consumption habits.
According to the United Nation’s Food Agricultural Organization, “FAO”, fish and fishery products play a critical role in global food security and nutritional needs of people in developing and developed countries. Global food fish harvesting and production has grown steadily in the last five decades, at an average annual rate of 3.2 percent, outpacing world population growth (1.6 percent). Hence, average per capita availability has risen. World per capita apparent fish consumption increased from an average of 9.9 kg in the 1960s to 17.0 kg in the 2000s and 18.9 kg in 2010, with preliminary estimates for 2012 pointing towards further growth to 19.2 kg. The driving force behind this unsustainable surge has been a combination of population growth, rising incomes, and urbanization interlinked to the strong expansion of commercial fish production and modern distribution channels.
The global increase in fish consumption tallies with trends in food consumption in general. Per capita food consumption has been rising in the last few decades. Nutritional standards have shown long-term trends, with worldwide increases in the average global calorie supply per person and in the quantity of proteins per person. However, many countries continue to face food shortages and nutrient inadequacies, and major inequalities exist in access to food, mainly owing to very weak economic growth and rapid population expansion. The majority of undernourished people in the world live in Africa, Asia and along the Pacific Rim, with the highest prevalence of undernourishment found in Sub Saharan Africa.
According to the World Watch Institute, since 1950, seafood consumption has jumped almost eight times. This rise in global catch and consumption comes even as wild seafood becomes scarcer. In 2006, scientists tracking historical changes in the world’s major fish populations estimated that all major fish stocks could be commercially extinct—less than 90 percent of their historic levels—by the middle of this century if current trends continue. We believe this underestimates the problem.
Seafood as a food choice in the developed world will undoubtedly spread to the developing countries as their economies continue to grow which will only increase the trend of declining fish stocks at a much faster rate. The devastation of our sea life will inevitably accelerate. Immediate action is required to educate the developed world’s consumers and provide some hope for change.
On average, each person ate three times as much seafood in 2004 as in 1950 but the amount and type of seafood consumed vary widely.
The Chinese consume about a fifth of the world’s seafood, eating per person roughly five times as much seafood as they did in 1961.They are also the second largest economy on the planet. Total Chinese fish consumption has increased more than 10-fold in that time. Over the same period, U.S. seafood consumption jumped 2.5 times.
The Japanese consume the most seafood per person, about 66 kilo- grams each year. In Europe, the average person eats about 26 kilograms a year, slightly more than the average Chinese does.
For people in wealthy nations, seafood is an increasingly popular health food option; given its high levels of fatty acids and trace minerals, nutritionists recognize it as essential to the development and maintenance of good neurological function, not to mention reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and other debilitating conditions.
In poorer nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, people are also eating more fish, if they can afford it or can fish for it themselves. For more than 1 billion people, mostly in Asia, fish supply 30 percent of the protein they consume, compared with just 6 percent worldwide. Consumers in Europe, the United States, and Japan favor larger, predatory fish, like tuna and cod, the populations of which are the most endangered. Most salmon and shrimp, two other popular items, are now raised in aquaculture. Farm raised salmon is an environmental disaster as it spreads diseases to the wild stocks.
In contrast, poorer people tend to depend on smaller fish that are lower on the food chain, including herbivorous farmed fish like catfish, carp, and tilapia, as well as oysters, clams, mussels, and sea vegetables. In China, which raises 70 percent of the world’s farmed fish, fish farming accounts for nearly two thirds of total fish consumption and is dominated by such herbivorous species.
Things are drastically getting worse
The results of over fishing are alarming, because the pressure on fish populations has been escalating for years. According to the current State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) Report, the proportion of over exploited or depleted stocks has increased from 10 per cent in 1974 to 29.9 per cent in 2009. After temporary fluctuations, the proportion of fully exploited stocks rose during the same period of time, from 51% to 57%. The proportion of non-fully exploited stocks, in contrast, has declined since 1974 from almost 40% to only 12.7% in 2009. A clear trend is emerging: as far as overfishing and the intensive exploitation of the oceans are concerned, the situation is steadily deteriorating.