BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 18 September '15

Fish populations essential for food and jobs have crashed 50% in the last four decades

Populations of fish critical to human food security are in serious decline worldwide with some at risk of collapse, according to the emergency edition of a WWF report.

WWF’s Living Blue Planet Report has found that much of the activity threatening the ocean is avoidable and solutions do exist to turn the tide.

Fishlove – celebrities pose with fish to raise awareness of overfishing

Trouble for all nations

The updated study of marine mammals, birds, reptiles and fish shows that populations have been reduced, on average, by half globally in the last four decades, with some fish declining by close to 75%. The latest findings spell trouble for all nations, especially people in the developing world.

To reverse the downward trend, global leaders must ensure that ocean recovery and coastal habitat health feature strongly in the implementation of the UN’s sustainable development goals, which will be formally approved later this month.

Negotiations on a new global climate deal are also an important opportunity to forge agreement in support of ocean health.

‘We urgently published this report to provide the most current picture of the state of the ocean.

‘In the space of a single generation, human activity has severely damaged the ocean by catching fish faster than they can reproduce while also destroying their nurseries.  Profound changes are needed to ensure abundant ocean life for future generations.’

Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International

The race to catch fish

Research in the WWF report indicates that species essential to commercial and subsistence fishing  – and therefore global food supply – may be suffering the greatest declines.

Underscoring the severe drop in commercial fish stocks, the report details the dramatic loss of 74% of the family of popular food fish that includes tunas, mackerels and bonitos.

‘We are in a race to catch fish that could end with people starved of a vital food source and an essential economic engine.

‘Overfishing, destruction of marine habitats and climate change have dire consequences for the entire human population, with the poorest communities that rely on the sea getting hit fastest and hardest.

‘The collapse of ocean ecosystems could trigger serious economic decline – and undermine our fight to eradicate poverty and malnutrition.’

Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International

The importance of oceans

  • The European Union has 66.000 km of coastline
  • In the EU, tourism is the third-largest socio-economic sector (according to UNWTO). In general, 80% of all tourism is based near the sea
  • The EU is the major consumption market and the largest importer of seafood products in the world, making up 24% of the total value of world trade (According to the EC’s report The EU fish Market 2014
  • Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing accounts for up to 30% of the global catches nowadays, which has devastating effects on fish stocks and the marine environment
  • In the North Atlantic Ocean, which has an important impact to the economy and wellbeing of many countries in Europe, the WWF Living Blue Planet report shows that 72% of deep-sea fish populations have declined over the last 40 years. The index for deep-sea fish populations for the North Atlantic is based on 77 populations of 25 species
  • Globally, more than 90 fish species are on the brink of extinction. In addition, nearly 1/3 of fish population trends that could be assessed were found to be in decline
  • Overfishing continues to be one of the big causes of marine degradation. 29% of global fish stocks are overfished. In the Mediterranean Sea, 93% of assessed stocks are overexploited

‘Europe is surrounded by oceans and seas; they are some of the most precious natural resources we can count on. Our economy, our climate, our diets are determined by the oceans and marine life. Science clearly shows that oceans are reaching their limits and this should be a wake-up call for all if we want future generations to live in a healthy planet.
 
‘What is more, illegal fishing is strongly contributing to this marine tragedy. As the world’s largest seafood market, the EU is responsible of tackling it. WWF strongly encourages the European Commission and its member states to effectively implement the current EU Regulation, which is leading the fight against illegal fishing worldwide.’

Geneviève Pons-Deladrière, director of WWF European Policy Office

Click here to read the full Living Blue Planet Report from the WWF.