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Washington Post: Just how badly are we overfishing the ocean?


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Washington Post: Just how badly are we overfishing the ocean?

Melanie Wong | Oct 30, 2013 04:47 PM

". . . So just how badly are we overfishing the oceans? Are fish populations going to keep shrinking each year — or could they recover? Those are surprisingly contentious questions, and there seem to be a couple of schools of thought here.

The pessimistic view, famously expressed by fisheries expert Daniel Pauly, is that we may be facing 'The End of Fish.' One especially dire 2006 study in Science warned that many commercial ocean fish stocks were on pace to “collapse” by mid-century — at which point they would produce less than 10 percent of their peak catch. Then it's time to eat jellyfish.

Other experts have countered that this view is far too alarmist.** A number of countries have worked hard to improve their fisheries management over the years, including Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. 'The U.S. is actually a big success story in rebuilding fish stocks,' Ray Hilborn, a marine biologist at the University of Washington, told me last year. Overfishing isn't inevitable. We can fix it.

Both sides make valid points — but the gloomy view is hard to dismiss. That's the argument of a new paper in Marine Pollution Bulletin by Tony Pitcher and William Cheung of the University of British Columbia that weighs in on this broader debate. They conclude that some fisheries around the world are indeed improving, though these appear to be a minority for now. "

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