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Peak Fish and the biodiversity crisis

We were recently reminded yet again that regarding the Earth's biodiversity crisis, we need to get used to failure.

World leaders have failed to deliver commitments made in 2002 to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss, and have instead overseen alarming biodiversity declines. These findings are the result of a new 2010 Biodiversity Indicator Partnership (2010 BIP) paper published in leading journal Science and represent the first assessment of how targets made through the 2002 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have not been met.

Compiling over 30 indicators—measures of different aspects of biodiversity, including changes in species' populations and risk of extinction, habitat extent and community composition—the study found no evidence for a significant reduction in the rate of decline of biodiversity, and that the pressures facing biodiversity continue to increase. The synthesis provides overwhelming evidence that the 2010 target has not been achieved.

Dr. Stuart Butchart talks about the missed 2010 biodiversity target

I first wrote about the biodiversity crisis in The Sixth Extinction. It is the 6th because in the Phanerozoic, the period from the beginning of the Cambrian 543 million years ago to the present, there have been five other Mass Extinctions. I included a section on Peak Fish in that article, which you can consult if you want the grisly details. The cause of the Sixth Extinction is not hard to find—we have met the enemy and he is us.

Those of you familiar with a world oil production curve will feel right at home looking at this Peak Fish graph.

Peak_fish_fao
Marine & all wildfish catches peaked in the 1990s. Data from the FAO graphed by Wikipedia

The graph does not show how we are fishing down the food chain (so-called trophic levels) to achieve our current wildfish "production."

In yesterday's article How We Wrecked The Oceans, Jeremy Jackson reminds that in 20 or 50 years following current trends, there won't be anymore fish (except for minnows) in the world's oceans. Just today I learned of a new study telling us the same thing. This is taken from a Yahoo press report Ocean's Fish Could Disappear In 40 Years: UN

NEW YORK (AFP) –
The world faces the nightmare possibility of fishless oceans by 2050 without fundamental restructuring of the fishing industry, UN experts said Monday.

"If the various estimates we have received... come true, then we are in the situation where 40 years down the line we, effectively, are out of fish," Pavan Sukhdev, head of the UN Environment Program's green economy initiative, told journalists in New York...

The report, which was opened to preview Monday, also assesses how surging global demand in other key areas including energy and fresh water can be met while preventing ecological destruction around the planet.

UNEP director Achim Steiner said the world was "drawing down to the very capital" on which it relies. However, "our institutions, our governments are perfectly capable of changing course, as we have seen with the extraordinary uptake of interest. Around, I think it is almost 30 countries now have engaged with us directly, and there are many others revising the policies on the green economy," he said.

Fish stocks is not only an environmental matter.

One billion people, mostly from poorer countries, rely on fish as their main animal protein source, according to the UN. The Green Economy report estimates there are 35 million people fishing around the world on 20 million boats. About 170 million jobs depend directly or indirectly on the sector, bringing the total web of people financially linked to 520 million.

According to the UN, 30 percent of fish stocks have already collapsed, meaning they yield less than 10 percent of their former potential, while virtually all fisheries risk running out of commercially viable catches by 2050.

Those 1,000,000,000 people whose main source of protein comes from fish, together with (even excluding double counting) those 520,000,000 people linked directly or indirectly to the fishing industry, certainly does put a lot of pressure on fishermen to catch fish, doesn't it?

The alert reader will note UNEP director Achim Steiner's message of Obligatory Hope: our institutions, our governments are perfectly capable of changing course... These institutions & governments may be perfectly capable of changing course in some superficial sense, but will they? I doubt it. There's little or no chance they will act in my view. Once again see my How We Wrecked The Oceans.

So far, the only thing perfect in our response to the ongoing biodiversity crisis is our unblemished record of failure to do anything significant about it.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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