Friday, 18 September 2015

Losing Nemo: Crisis in the oceans as fish stocks halve

SEPTEMBER 17, 2015

by Eric Hopton

The phrase “there’s plenty more fish in the sea” is rapidly becoming a particularly dumb cliché. In fact, populations of fish and other marine vertebrates, including marine mammals, reptiles, and birds have halved since 1970.

According to a new analysis by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), these findings are disastrous for ecosystems and they “spell trouble for all nations, especially people in the developing world who depend heavily on the ocean’s resources.”

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), nearly 3 billion people rely on fish as their major protein source and the world’s oceans “generate economic benefits worth at least US $2.5 trillion per year.”

The ZSL analysis was based on data from the Living Planet Index and the Living Blue Planet Report 2014. The research looked at the populations of 1,234 marine species, from fish and sea birds to sharks and leatherback turtles. Among the worst hit are members of the Scombridae family which includes tuna, mackerels, and bonito, with their numbers down by a steep 74 percent.

Overfishing is the main culprit, but damage to habitat, pollution, and climate change are also impacting on marine biodiversity and commercial fisheries. More than 5 trillion pieces of plastic fill the seas, and oxygen depleted “dead zones” are growing due to nutrient run-off.

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