Ocean fisheries Collapsing

Photo: Fishermen with their

The oceans are emptying. In a single generation, once thriving populations of deep sea fish have been driven to the brink of extinction by expanding fisheries, researchers say today.

Records of catches logged by trawlers operating in the North Atlantic from 1978 to 1994 show that at least five species of deep sea fish are at such low levels that they qualify for the World Conservation Union's critically endangered list. The research, published in the journal Nature, adds weight to demands by conservationists for the creation of internationally protected reserves to place vast areas of the deep seas out of bounds to fisheries.

"We expected to see declines, but we didn't expect such severe declines, " said Jennifer Devine, a PhD student who led the study at Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada. "If nothing changes, we could be facing barren oceans or oceans of fish we can't utilise."

Last year, researchers in Canada, led by Ransom Myers at Dalhousie University, reported that the great predators, such as tuna, swordfish and marlin, were in serious decline. Shark populations have also nosedived in the North Atlantic, by 90% in 15 years. While previous studies focused largely on species destined for the dinner plate, the latest research looked at by-catch, those fish caught up in trawlers' nets by accident.

"These are species no one really cares about, but they play a key role in the ecosystem, " Ms Devine said.

The scientists reviewed trawler logs for records of five deep sea by-catch species - the roundnose grenadier, onion-eye grenadier, blue hake, spiny eel and spinytail skate. All are slow growing, reaching more than a metre long and living to 60 years. They found that levels of all the fish plummeted by 87%-98% over the 17 years, a rate that will see a decline over the next three generations of 99%-100%. Records for roundnose grenadier and onion-eye grenadier from 1995 to 2003 show those species have collapsed by 99.6% and 93.3% in 26 years.

"The declines occurred on timescales equal to, or slightly less than, a single generation of these species, " the authors write.

Environmentally conscientious fish shopping

2010-01-12 09:59:05 by BiscuitCity

• Go with the green!
Carry a seafood wallet card, a guide to which fish species get the "green light" as good choices. These cards are great references when buying seafood at grocery stores and restaurants, and are available for free from the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Program.
• Good for you, good for your local economy.
Be a conscious consumer and try to buy local, environmentally responsible seafood as much as possible. This promotes sustainable management of marine resources, and preserves a way of life for progressive-minded farmers and fishermen in your region

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