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Nature cover story - Only 10% of all large fish are left in global ocean

The cover story of the May 15th issue of the international journal Nature reveals that we have only 10% of all large fish-- both open ocean species including tuna, swordfish, marlin and the large groundfish such as cod, halibut, skates and flounder-- left in the sea. Most strikingly, the study shows that industrial fisheries take only ten to fifteen years to grind any new fish community they encounter to one tenth of what it was before.

"From giant blue marlin to mighty bluefin tuna, and from tropical groupers to Antarctic cod, industrial fishing has scoured the global ocean. There is no blue frontier left," says lead author Ransom Myers, a world-leading fisheries biologist based at Dalhousie University in Canada. "Since 1950, with the onset of industrialized fisheries, we have rapidly reduced the resource base to less than 10% not just in some areas, not just for some stocks, but for entire communities of these large fish species from the tropics to the poles."

This study not only confirms the bad news emerging from individual fisheries showing that species like cod can be fished below recovery, but it also reveals a grim global mosaic that demands immediate action. "The impact we have had on ocean ecosystems has been vastly underestimated," says co-author Boris Worm of Dalhousie University and the University of Kiel in Germany. "These are the megafauna, the big predators of the sea, and the species we most value. Their depletion not only threatens the future of these fish and the fishers that depend on them, it could also bring about a complete re-organization of ocean ecosystems, with unknown global consequences."

Taking 10 years to assemble data sets representing all major fisheries in the world, the authors constructed trajectories of biomass and composition of large predatory fish communities from four continental shelves and nine oceanic systems, from the beginning of exploitation to the present. For shelf ecosystems they used data f
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Contact: Jessica Brown
jbrown@seaweb.org
202-483-9570
SeaWeb
14-May-2003


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