Global Fish Crisis | Still Waters, National Geographic Magazine

The diversion of low-value fish from the mouths of people in developing countries into the mouths of well-fed fish in the developed world… is obscenity on an imperial Roman scale. —Charles Clover

For one billion people, mostly poor, fish is the only source of protein.Pressures from the fishing industry place the estimate for empty oceans in the year 2048. According to England’s Royal Commission on Environment, the collapse of the world’s fisheries is the greatest environmental challenge facing the human race after global warming.

In 1995, a National Geographic article entitled “Diminishing Returns” warned that, “The next ten years are going to be very painful, full of upheaval for everyone connected to the sea.”  The cod fishery in Newfoundland was on “the verge of …

Global Fish Crisis | Still Waters, National Geographic Magazine

The diversion of low-value fish from the mouths of people in developing countries into the mouths of well-fed fish in the developed world… is obscenity on an imperial Roman scale. —Charles Clover

For one billion people, mostly poor, fish is the only source of protein.Pressures from the fishing industry place the estimate for empty oceans in the year 2048. According to England’s Royal Commission on Environment, the collapse of the world’s fisheries is the greatest environmental challenge facing the human race after global warming.

In 1995, a National Geographic article entitled “Diminishing Returns” warned that, “The next ten years are going to be very painful, full of upheaval for everyone connected to the sea.”  The cod fishery in Newfoundland was on “the verge of collapse.” And Senegalese politicians were selling off fishing rights to the EU at the expense of their artisanal fishermen.

The brewing storm in 1995 is no longer on the horizon.  Cod fishing has collapsed off Newfoundland, never to return. Fifty percent more fishermen in Senegal now have to travel 600km to find fish instead of the 200km it took in 1995. And, more importantly, there have been an additional ten years of trawlers strip-mining Africa’s waters. As a result, according to Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia, fisheries along the West African coast are in collapse.

The decline of available fish is so severe that Africans in coastal areas are forced to look for protein elsewhere. This means going deeper and deeper into the forests for bush meat, which has led to the extinction of almost half the species in some animal reserves in Ghana.

Fresh and frozen fish remain in ample supply in grocery stores, markets, and restaurants in First World countries, where nutrition experts routinely encourage everyone to eat more fish. We do this to make sure we get enough Omega-3 fatty acids, despite the decimation of these resources, and oblivious to the suffering and desperate circumstances of so many who rely on fish as their only protein.

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