In Dead Water


The World’s oceans provide one of the largest (not domesticat- ed) food reserves on the planet. Overall, seafood provided more than 2.6 billion people with at least 20 per cent of their average per capita animal protein intake (FAO, 2006). Capture fisher- ies and aquaculture supplied the world with about 106 million tonnes of food fish in 2004, providing an apparent per capita supply of 16.6 kg (live weight equivalent), which is the highest on record (FAO, 2006). Capture fishery production has, how- ever, remained static, and it is only the rise in aquaculture, now accounting for 43% of the total consumption, that enabled this increase (FAO, 2006). Worldwide, aquaculture has grown at an average rate of 8.8 per cent per year since 1970, compared with only 1.2 per cent for capture fisheries in the same period. De- spite fishing capacity now exceeding current harvest four-fold, marine capture has declined or remained level since 2000, reflecting over-harvest in many regions (Hilborn et al ., 2003; FAO, 2006). A major reason why the decline has not become more evident is likely because of advances in fishing efficiency, shift to previously discarded or avoided fish, and the fact that the fishing fleet is increasingly fishing in deeper waters. The overall decrease in landings is mostly related to declines in fishing zones in the Southeast and Northwest Pacific oceans (FAO, 2006). In addition, the living resources in the World’s oceans, including those so essential to mankind, are not ran- domly or evenly distributed. They are largely concentrated in small regions/areas and hotspots, of which continental shelves and seamounts – under-water mountains – play a crucial role. The safety of the World’s oceans as a food source for future gen- erations is however insecure. Over the last decades, there has been continuing exploitation and depletion of fisheries stocks. Undeveloped fish reserves have disappeared altogether since the mid-1980s. During the last decades, there has been a con- tinued decline in fish resources in the ‘developing’ phase, and an increase of those in the depleted or over-exploited phase. This trend is somewhat offset by the emergence of resources in the ‘recovering’ phase (Mullon et al ., 2005; FAO, 2006; Das- kalov et al ., 2007). There is little evidence of rapid recovery in

World fisheries and aquaculture production (million tonnes)





2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005







Figure 1. The World’s marine fisheries have stagnated or slightly declined in the last decad e , offset only by increases in aquacul- ture production (Source FAO, 2006).


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