Dr Jeff Hutchings (m): The World Bank in October of last year released a report in which they estimate that overfishing costs the world economy 50 billion dollars every year and has cost the economy 2 trillion in the last thirty years.
HOST: Hallo, life-protecting viewers, and welcome to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. On this edition we examine the very serious problem of overfishing and other harmful human activities that severely threaten the continued existence of our fish co-inhabitants. “Is the Sea Ours?” Produced by Greenpeace Brazil
Lawrence Wahba (m):I’ve been diving in these waters from our coastline for more than 30 years, since I was seven, eight years old. And nowadays we see much less fish than we used to before.
HOST: Due to intensive fishing over the recent decades, it is estimated that worldwide a staggering 90% of the ocean’s largest fish are now gone. Numerous species are at grave risk of extinction.
A study conducted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature found almost a third of sharks and rays are at risk of disappearing permanently.
Today, Dr. Guillermo Moreno, head of the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF’s) Hong Kong Marine Program, Dr. Yvonne Sadovy, a marine scientist and professor at the University of Hong Kong, and Dr. Jeff Hutchings, a biology professor from Dalhousie University, Canada, among others, share their expert knowledge and observations about the survival of fish in our seas.
Dr Moreno (m): The level of depletion is really reaching scary levels around our oceans. Here is a picture showing the East coast of the US and the West coast of Europe. And in red we have got places where in the 1900s, there used to be many fish, and levels marked in blue show very low levels of fish. In a matter of 99 years we have managed to deplete the fish stocks in these areas.
Professor Sadovy (f): In the 1980s, we found that we were catching more fish than the fisheries could produce, and that’s a state of overfishing. And yet we continued to develop our fisheries to catch more fish.
HOST: The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated in 2002 there were 4 million fishing vessels worldwide. With many fleets employing highly environmentally destructive methods such as trawling or dragging large nets behind boats and possessing high tech equipment to quickly and easily locate schools of fish; fish have been disappearing at an alarming pace.
Dr Jeff Hutchings (m): In Canada we have depleted Atlantic Cod off Newfoundland, off the northeast coast of Canada by 99%. Now what does that mean in terms of numbers of individuals? Well it means we’ve depleted more than 2 billion spawning individuals. And another way to compare that is to take 2 billion and multiply it by the average weight of cod and 2 billion cod is equal to about 27 million humans.
Dr Jeff Hutchings (m): The second species is called the American Plaice. This is a flatfish. It’s like a sole or a flounder or a halibut. And off the northeast coast of Canada, this once widely distributed fish has declined 96%.
Dr Moreno (m): It is currently happening all over the world, in the Antarctic waters, in the Indian, Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, in every ocean in the world right now.
Dr Moreno (m): So what it means that is eventually we’re going to end up with no fish in the oceans at this rate.
HOST: Governments are financially supporting fishing industries which also fuels the destruction of the ever dwindling fish populations.
Professor Sadovy (f): One of the key ones is something called subsidies. Many fisheries around the world are provided with funding from their governments, which help those fisheries continue, even when there’s not enough fish.