In the last 40 years, certain fish populations have decreased by almost 75 percent. Many of these species are essential to the human food chain.
New research shows that tuna and mackerel are subject to a “catastrophic” decline. The study cites problems such as overfishing, acidification from environmental pollution and other threats to marine life that must be addressed.
A Decline In Aquatic Animal Species
The study, called Living Blue Planet Report, was conducted by World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) and the Zoological Society of London. It concluded that an important family of fish species, commonly used to supply food, has been impacted by various man-made environmental hazards.
The scombridae family of fish includes mackerels, tunas and bonitos. These species have declined by 74 percent between 1970 and 2012. In addition, the research shows that 49 percent of 1,234 ocean species have declined throughout that 49 year span.
The fish populations in decline are critical to human food security, according to WWF. The charity urges action to put a stop to the actions that are depleting global resources.
“This is catastrophic. We are destroying vital food sources, and the ecology of our oceans,” Louise Heaps, chief advisor on marine policy at WWF UK, said.
Threatened fish species include the nearly extinct Pacific bluefin tuna, along with yellowtail tuna and albacore, which are popular menu items. However, the skipjack tuna has “a surprising degree of resilience,” according to Heaps, one of the study authors.
In addition, sea cucumbers, which are an Asian luxury dish, have fallen by 98 percent in the Galapagos Islands and 94 percent in in the Egyptian Red Sea. Endangered leatherback turtles in the UK are also becoming scarce.
The study authors identify specific threats to marine life and ocean habitats, which in turn threaten our access to seafood.
Identifying Threats To Sea Creatures
Overfishing is a global issue, but it’s specifically problematic in the Pacific Ocean. Chinese, Japanese and Korean fisherman possess the world’s largest fleet in both size and capacity. The fishing activities of these countries outweigh even European ocean endeavors.
Since 1970, pollution has been affecting marine health and habitats. A substance called plastic detritus builds up in the digestive system of fish, which damages wildlife and enters the food chain. Coastal mangrove swamps are depleted, and carbon dioxide has contaminated the ocean. This makes it more acidic, which depletes metabolic rates and depresses immune systems of marine life.
“I am terrified about acidification,” Heaps told the Guardian. “That situation is looking very bleak. We were taught in the 1980s that the solution to pollution is dilution, but that suggests the oceans have an infinite capacity to absorb our pollution. That is not true, and we have reached the capacity now.”
If regulators don’t step in, acidification could destroy the world’s coral reefs by 2050. The process of acidification is dangerous to tiny marine animals that use calcium to make their shells and other organs.
“It’s not all doom-and-gloom. There are choices we can make. But it is urgent,” Heaps said.
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