Quantcast
Food

Closing the High Seas to Fishing Could Save Coastal Fisheries

Researchers from the University of British Columbia say that closing the high seas to fishing could help coastal fisheries, increasing catches by 10 percent. But our waters are now more polluted than ever, threatening the entire food chain.

© Australian Fisheries Management Authority / WWF

Fish have responded to warming ocean waters by moving north and to deeper waters, and these movements are expected to accelerate. This has resulted in a redistribution of commercial fish stocks. Warm water species are now being found in higher latitudes and tropical water will see "substantial decreases in potential catches" according to the study published Tuesday in Fish and Fisheries. About half of 36 fish stocks in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean have shifted northward in the past 40 years, a 2009 report from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, said.

Warming of Northwest Atlantic WatersCredit: Janet Nye, NEFSC/NOAA

Similar issues have been seen in coastal fisheries. Maine has been enjoying a boom in lobster fishing as the catch in Southern New England declined from 22 million pounds in 1997 to 3.3 million in 2013. But all is not rosy in the Gulf of Maine, which is warming at the fastest rate of almost any sea. At the Portland Fish Exchange, where 90 percent of Maine's groundfish catch is sold and stored, annual landings are now averaging 5 to 6 million pounds of cod, flounder, haddock, hake and other species, down from 80 million pounds in the early 1980s.

Climate change is predicted to reduce global catches by 10 percent by 2050, a substantial risk to feed a growing world population. This risk is magnified among island and coastal communities in the tropics, where low income and indigenous communities rely on this key food source.

Uncontrolled and over-fishing has decimated many fish stocks. The Natural Resources Defense Council states that populations of large ocean fish such as tuna and swordfish have declined by 90 percent from pre-industrial levels. The World Wildlife Fund cites poor fisheries management and illegal fishing as key culprits. Just 1.6 percent of the world's oceans are protected areas, and beyond coastal zones, there are few if any restrictions on commercial fishing. Large, industrial-scale fishing began replacing small operations in the 20th century, rapidly depleting fish stocks. In 1996, at least 86 million metric tons of catch were taken, and perhaps as much as 130 million tons. The total catch has declined ever since. We've already past peak fish.

Groundfish catches in Maine are down more than 90 percent since the 1980s.Credit: Dan Zukowski

The University of British Columbia looked at 30 key fish stocks against three different modeling scenarios: cooperative international fisheries management, closing the ocean to fishing and maintaining the status quo. Under the status quo, global catches are forecast to decline 5.8 percent by 2050, with a deep-sea drop of 10.9 percent. The take in coastal fisheries, defined as exclusive economic zones (EEZ), declines by 5.5 percent. Under cooperative management, global catches increase by nearly 30 percent while the coastal catch increases 6.3 percent. The most dramatic benefit to coastal zones comes from a closure of deep sea fisheries, with a gain in the EEZs of 10.3 percent. Total global catch under this scenario declines by 3.4 percent.

Unquestionably, there's a trade-off. The researchers see it this way: "Although the scenario with sustainable high seas fisheries performs best amongst those that we explored, it is important to question the likelihood of achieving effective management of sustainable fisheries in the high seas."

Gaining full cooperation and enforcement is unlikely. Tropical countries are going to lose out most. High seas closure would help mitigate inequality in fish stock redistribution and enhance resilience of fish species.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Climate
Wikimedia Commons

Strongest, Oldest Arctic Sea Ice Breaks Up for First Time on Record

The Arctic is warming at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the globe, and now the region's thickest and oldest sea ice—also known as "the last ice area"—is breaking up for the first time on record, the Guardian reported Tuesday.

The breakage has opened up waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen-solid even in the peak of summer.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Climate Justice Edmonton

These Giant Portraits Will Stand in the Path of Trans Mountain Pipeline

By Andrea Germanos

To put forth a "hopeful vision for the future" that includes bold climate action, a new installation project is to be erected along the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion route to harnesses art's ability to be a force for social change and highlight the fossil fuel project's increased threats to indigenous rights and a safe climate.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
A worker inspects recycled plastic in a plastics factory. Getty Images

The Plastic Waste Crisis Is an Opportunity to Get Serious About Recycling

By Kate O'Neill

A global plastic waste crisis is building, with major implications for health and the environment. Under its so-called "National Sword" policy, China has sharply reduced imports of foreign scrap materials. As a result, piles of plastic waste are building up in ports and recycling facilities across the U.S.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure
Aaron Teasdale

The One Thing Better Than Summer Skiing

By Aaron Teasdale

"There's snow up here, I promise," I assure my son Jonah, as we grunt up a south-facing mountainside in Glacier National Park in July. A mountain goat cocks its head as if to say, "What kind of crazy people hike up bare mountains in ski boots?" He's not the only one to wonder what in the name of Bode Miller we're doing up here with ski gear.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
A protester wears a pill shaped costume bearing the names of Bayer and Monsanto during a demonstration against the takeover of U.S. seeds and pesticides maker Monsanto by German chemicals firm Bayer outside the World Conference Center where the annual General meeting of chemicals giant Bayer takes place in Bonn, western Germany, on May 25. PATRIK STOLLARZ / AFP / Getty Images

The Much-Loathed Monsanto Name Is About to Die

By Dan Nosowitz

The public seems to loathe Monsanto. A recent poll ranked the company among the 20 most hated in America (nearly every other name on the list is a consumer-facing company the public deals with regularly, like health insurers, telecoms, and airlines) and entire marches are organized against them. As German corporation Bayer AG folds Monsanto into its portfolio, Bayer is making what is probably a shrewd business choice: killing the Monsanto name.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
The Seattle skyline hazy with smoke from wildfires that have impacted air quality throughout Washington state during the past week. Peter Stevens / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Wildfires Choke Washington State's Air, Delaying Flights and Trash Collection

Unhealthy levels of air pollution caused by smoke from wildfires delayed flights and trash collection in parts of Washington state Sunday and Monday.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Animals
Mom and baby West Indian manatees in Three Sisters Springs, Florida. James R.D. Scott / Getty Images

Florida Manatee: 10% of Population Could Be Wiped Out This Year

2018 has not been a good year for Florida's iconic manatees. A total of 540 sea cows have died in the last eight months, surpassing last year's total of 538 deaths, according to figures posted Monday by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The figure will likely climb higher before the year's end amid the state's ongoing toxic algae crisis. The red tide in the state's southwest is the known or suspected cause of death for 97 manatees as of Aug. 12, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission recently reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
SOPA Images / Getty Images

Walmart Joins Ranks of Retailers Pulling Toxic Paint Strippers From Shelves – When Will EPA Follow Suit?

By Sarah Vogel

Monday, Walmart announced that it will stop selling paint strippers containing methylene chloride or N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) in stores by February 2019—making it the first general merchandise retailer to take such action. Walmart's announcement follows the strong leadership demonstrated by Lowes, Home Depot and Sherwin Williams, all of which have committed not to sell methylene chloride- and NMP-based paint stripping products by the end of the year. Importantly, Walmart's action goes beyond its U.S. stores, including those in Mexico, Canada and Central America, as well as their online store.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!