At 6.8 billion humans, and adding 80 million more annually, the human race continues plundering the planet beyond imagination. Extinction rates exceed 70 creatures per day worldwide, yet humans devour resources, energy, land and other living being with rapacious hunger.
“Every 20 minutes, another species becomes extinct,” said Conservation International spokesperson. http://www.conservation.org
Humans attack other creatures with blinding speed. Each year, and for the past 20 years, 100 million sharks suffer death annually by the hands of humans around the globe. (Source: Life, “Shark Alert” August 1991, “Last days of the Ocean” by Julia Whitty 2009)
In addition, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, with three million tons of floating plastic, the size of Texas, out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean—kills millions of sea creatures. Whitty said, “That includes 40,000 sea turtles, 300,000 sea birds and 100,000,000 sharks.”
Washington Post writer Marc Kaufman said, “Over the past 100 years, some two-thirds of the large predator fish in the ocean have been caught and consumed by humans, and in the decades ahead the rest are likely to perish, too.
“In their place, small fish such as sardines and anchovies are flourishing in the absence of the tuna, grouper and cod that traditionally feed on them, creating an ecological imbalance that experts say will forever change the oceans.”
"Think of it like the Serengeti, with lions and the antelopes they feed on," said Villy Christensen of University of British Columbia's Fisheries Centre. "When all the lions are gone, there will be antelopes everywhere. Our oceans are losing their lions and pretty soon will have nothing but antelopes."
This grim reckoning was presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting Friday during a panel that asked the question: "2050: Will there be fish in the ocean?"
“The panel predicted that while there would be fish decades from now, they will be primarily the smaller varieties currently used as fish oil, fish meal for farmed fish and only infrequently as fish for humans,” said Kaufman. “People, the experts said, will have to develop a taste for anchovies, capelins and other smaller species.
“That the oceans are being overfished has been documented before, and the collapse of species such as cod and Atlantic salmon is also well known. The new research attempts to quantify the overall decline in larger fish, based on data from more than 200 ecological systems studied since 1880. Those results were then modeled across the globe.
“One startling conclusion: More than 54 percent of the decrease in large predator fish has taken place over the past 40 years.”
"It's a question of how many people are fishing, how they are fishing, and where they are fishing," Christensen said. “A majority of the catch, and now of the decline, involves East Asia, which has witnessed dramatic overall economic growth.”
“But they say that absent predators, the fisheries will be out of balance and more subject to mass die-offs from disease and from boom-and-bust cycles that, over time, can lead to algae or bacteria blooms that take the oxygen out of the waters and make them uninhabitable,” said Kaufman. “Jacqueline Alder from the U.N. Environment Program suggested that the number of fishing boats and days they fish have to be restricted.”
"If we can do this immediately, we will see a decline in fish catches. However, that will give an opportunity for the fish stocks to rebuild and expand their populations," she said.
But the fishing fleets are growing in size and sophistication, said University of Tasmania scientist Reg Watson. "Humans have always fished," he said. "We are just much better at it now."
“Examining 2006 catch results, his team found that 76 million tons of commercial seafood was hauled in - which he said equates to 7 trillion individual fish,” said Kaufman.
"It looks like we are fishing harder for the same or less result and this has to tell us something about the oceans' health," Watson said. "We may in fact have hit peak fish at the same time we are hitting peak oil. Almost 50 percent of the increase in the world's fish consumption for food comes from Eastern Asia, and "42 percent of that increase is coming from China itself.”
"Our study indicates indeed we may get a double whammy from climate change," said Christensen. "Higher water temperatures are going to mean fewer fish in the ocean and less plant life for them. This will be especially true in the tropical areas."
With continued human population growth, the Earth’s oceans and all its creatures swim in the cross-hairs of extinction. Within the boundaries of the United States, on course to add 100 million people within 24 years, North American animals suffer 250 extinctions annually, or 2,500 every decade.