The Aquacalypse: How the World's Fishing Industry Is Killing Off An Entire Species


By Olivia St. Denis

The saying goes, "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." Marine biologists who in 2006 predicted that every fish and seafood species in the oceans could become extinct by 2048 would probably offer a different proverb. Something along the lines of, "Stop teaching men to fish, goddamnit."

Industrialized fishing practices and the human hankering for bluefin tuna, cod, swordfish, and marlin have plunged these once-plentiful breeds into deeply endangered waters. So deep that some populations have taken a 90-percent dive in numbers over a 60-year span. The ecological and economic consequences of a fish-less world may have a ripple effect that could soon turn into a tidal wave.

Here's the catch: The world's commercial fishing industries are beating Mother Nature at her own game. Fish survival is impossible when today's fishing technology is fitter. Commercial ships with sonar equipment can detect schools that were once protected by unreachable depths and cavernous crevices.

The global fishing industry regulates the number of boats in the water but not the amount or species of fish caught, so ships have adapted by casting more hooks, lines, and nets. Today, fleets are two to three times more bloated to keep up with the world's seafood demand.

The serious ecological catastrophe begins when top predators like flounder, tuna, and cod start disappearing. Eliminating species at the top catapults a cycle of extinction into high gear. Think about it: all the preditors that depend on these bigger fish breeds will eat the next largest species until it too is inevitably forced out of existence. The cycle will continue all the way down the fishy food chain, until the ecologic stability of our oceans collapse in a matter of generations.

A 2009 article by marine ecologist Daniel Pauly in The New Republic claims that, "Eating a tuna roll at a sushi restaurant should be considered no more environmentally benign than driving a Hummer or harpooning a manatee." In fact, some scientists predict jellyfish will replace tuna on restaurant menus within the next 30 years. After that, we'll be making casseroles out of those dinosaur-looking freaks with glow sticks under their scales.

Along with climate change and oil dependence, add overfishing to the list of issues we won't do anything about until it's too late. Global governments are either just now starting to mitigate fishery exploits or haven't yet begun the process. But instead of just resigning yourself to a fishless future, at least try to do your part: next time you go to Bleu Monkey, order a spring roll.