WASHINGTON (AP) – Clambakes, crabcakes, swordfish steaks and even
humble fish sticks could be little more than a fond memory in a few
decades. If current trends of overfishing and pollution continue, the
populations of just about all seafood face collapse by 2048, a team of
ecologists and economists warns in a report in Friday’s issue of the
"Whether we looked at tide pools or studies over the entire world’s
ocean, we saw the same picture emerging. In losing species we lose the
productivity and stability of entire ecosystems," said the lead author
Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
"I was shocked and disturbed by how consistent these trends are – beyond anything we suspected," Worm said.
While the study focused on the oceans, concerns have been expressed by
ecologists about threats to fish in the Great Lakes and other lakes,
rivers and freshwaters, too.
Worm and an international team spent four years analyzing 32 controlled
experiments, other studies from 48 marine protected areas and global
catch data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s database
of all fish and invertebrates worldwide from 1950 to 2003.
The scientists also looked at a 1,000-year time series for 12 coastal
regions, drawing on data from archives, fishery records, sediment cores
and archaeological data.
"At this point 29 percent of fish and seafood species have collapsed –
that is, their catch has declined by 90 percent. It is a very clear
trend, and it is accelerating," Worm said. "If the long-term trend
continues, all fish and seafood species are projected to collapse
within my lifetime – by 2048."