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Need-to-Know Facts About Farmed Fish

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The extent to which global demand for seafood is outpacing the sustainable yield of fisheries can be seen in shrinking fish stocks, declining catches and collapsing fisheries, according to the Earth Policy Institute

Overfishing has led to some disturbing facts that are difficult to ignore, according to the Earth Policy Institute. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Given these alarming trends, here are some need-to-know facts compiled by Earth Policy Institute showing the state of fisheries and people's growing reliance on farmed fish:

Alarming Data

More than 80 percent of the world’s fisheries are either considered fully exploited, with no room for safely increasing the catch, or they are already overfished and in need of rebuilding. 

Small forage fish account for more than half the food supply in 36 countries, including the Maldives, the Philippines and Ghana.

"It’s not just the well-known predatory fish like the endangered bluefin tuna that need a break. Scientists recommend catch reductions of roughly 50 percent for many forage fish—small plankton-eaters such as sardines, anchovies, and herring that are staples for larger fish and other predators," said Earth Policy Institute Research Associate J. Matthew Roney.

Farmed Fish Production 

Wild fish play a large role in the production of meat, milk, eggs and farmed fish. Some 6 million tons of fishmeal and 1 million tons of fish oil are produced each year. Nearly all of the fishmeal is fed to farmed fish, pigs and poultry, and 74 percent of fish oil goes to fish farms. 

People will likely eat more fish from farms than from the wild in 2014, a historical milestone. As the world’s oceans are fished to their limits, any increase in world fish consumption will come from farms.

Fish farming output is expected to increase 33 percent by 2021. 

In 2012, world farmed fish production topped beef production for the first time ever. 

China accounts for 60 percent of world farmed fish production. 

Scale Back and Rebuild

Some aquacultural producers are scaling back. Between 1995 and 2007, the fishmeal content in shrimp feed dropped from 28 percent to 18 percent. The drop was even more dramatic for salmon, from 45 percent to 24 percent.

Well-managed marine reserves, where fishing is off-limits, will help protect biodiversity and rebuild fish stocks. 

"The modern fishing industry that evolved to meet our ever-growing demand for fish and shellfish has created a situation where most fish stocks are maxed out or worse," said Roney. "It appears that there is little prospect for increasing the wild catch much further."

In fact, because widespread overfishing is already undermining oceanic food webs as well as the economic and food security of millions of people, it is clear that sharp catch reductions are needed for many fisheries. Leaving more fish in the ocean now to grow and breed is an investment that pays big dividends in future fisheries productivity."

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.

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