Factoids: World fisheries in crisis
By Environmental News Network staffJuly 10, 1998
Web posted at: 11:31 AM EDT (1131 GMT)
Anne Platt McGinn has written a Worldwatch Paper titled Rocking the Boat: Conserving Fisheries and Protecting Jobs, in which she concludes that the crisis in marine fisheries is being masked by the taking of younger and lower quality fish, massive imports from the developing world to the industrial world, and the rapid growth in fish farming. Some of the problems we're facing:
"Many of the fish species landed today were considered 'trash' just a few years ago," says McGinn. Low-value pelagic species, such as anchovy and pilchard, accounted for 73 percent of the increase in total catches in the 1980s. Since 1970, landings of the most commercially valuable species have dropped by one fourth. As a consequence, fishers are unraveling the food chain and grabbing fish of lesser quality and value. At the same time, fishers are hauling in species at a younger age, a practice that guarantees a smaller return in the future.
An estimated 85 percent of internationally traded fish originate in developing nations.
Non-food uses of fish in industrial countries are greater than the total supply of fish for human consumption in Latin America, Africa, and India combined.
Wild catches expanded from 20 million tons in 1950 to 93 million tons in 1996. But in the 1990s, growth in catches has slowed to about 1 percent, compared to 3 percent in the 1980s.
Approximatetly one third of the worldwide catch of 93 million tons is wasted -- thrown back into the sea dead or dying.
Spending on fishing fleets has been soaring, but there is so much overcapacity that profits per boat have dropped by more than half over the last 25 years.
People in industrial countries consume 40 percent of the world total of fish.
85 percent of internationally traded fishery products originate in developing nations.
Aquaculture is now one of the fastest growing sources of protein, expanding at 10 percent per year. Output more than tripled between 1984 (the first year global aquaculture statistics were compiled by FAO) and 1996, from 7 million tons worth $10 billion, to 23 million tons valued at $36 billion.
Today, one out of every five fish consumed comes from the farm. However, the growth in aquaculture has its own paradoxes. Many fish farmers feed high protein pellets made from wild fish to raise carnivorous species like shrimp and salmon. During the period 1985 to 1995, the world's shrimp farmers used 36 million tons of wild fish to produce just 7.2 million tons of shrimp.
In 1995, an estimated 20 percent of fish consumed worldwide were raised on a farm, compared to just 8 percent in 1984.
Farmed shrimp is the most profitable commodity in aquaculture, but it is also the most polluting. More than 15,000 hectares of valuable coastal areas -- the very areas that many wild species depend on for spawning and nourishment -- are choked with waste and abandoned completely each year.
Between 22 percent to 38 percent of global fishing revenues come from government coffers, not the sea. The global fishing industry receives more than $20 billion a year in subsidies.
Over fishing isn't the only problem. In the northwestern United States, Pacific salmon have vanished from about 40 percent of their breeding range, and more than 300 distinct salmon populations are at risk of extinction mostly due to the loss of upstream habitat areas to clear-cutting, dam building, and urbanization.
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