‘Global Collapse’ of Fishing

If fishing around the world continues at its present pace, more and more species will vanish, marine ecosystems will unravel and there will be “global collapse” of all species currently fished, possibly as soon as midcentury, fisheries experts and ecologists are predicting.

The scientists, who report their findings today in the journal Science, say it is not too late to turn the situation around. As long as marine ecosystems are still biologically diverse, they can recover quickly once overfishing and other threats are reduced, the researchers say.

But improvements must come quickly, said Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, who led the work. Otherwise, he said, “we are seeing the bottom of the barrel.”

“When humans get into trouble they are quick to change their ways,” he continued. “We still have rhinos and tigers and elephants because we saw a clear trend that was going down and we changed it. We have to do the same in the oceans.”

The report is one of many in recent years to identify severe environmental degradation in the world’s oceans and to predict catastrophic loss of fish species. But experts said it was unusual in its vision of widespread fishery collapse so close at hand.