and mackerel populations have suffered a “catastrophic” decline
of nearly three quarters in the last 40 years, according to new
and the Zoological Society of London found that numbers of the
scombridae family of fish, which also includes bonito, fell by 74%
between 1970 and 2012, outstripping a decline of 49% for 1,234 ocean
species over the same period.
conservation charity warned that we face losing species critical to
human food security, unless drastic action is taken to halt
overfishing and other threats to marine life.
Heaps, chief advisor on marine policy at WWF UK, said: “This is
catastrophic. We are destroying vital food sources, and the ecology
of our oceans.”
in recent years has focused on species such as bluefin
tuna, now on the verge of extinction in
the Pacific, but other close relatives commonly found on restaurant
menus or in tins, such as yellowtail tuna and albacore, are now also
becoming increasingly scarce. Only skipjack, also often tinned, is
showing “a surprising degree of resilience”, according to Heaps,
one of the authors of the Living
Blue Planet report,
published on Wednesday.
species suffering major declines include sea cucumbers, a luxury food
in Asia, which have fallen 98% in number in the Galapagos and 94% in
in the Egyptian Red Sea. Populations of endangered leatherback
turtles, which can be seen in UK waters, have plummeted.
is not the only culprit behind a halving of marine species since
1970. Pollution, including plastic
detritus which can build up in the digestive systems of fish;
the loss of key habitats such as coastal mangrove swamps; and climate
change are also taking a heavy toll, with the oceans becoming more
acidic as a result of the carbon dioxide we are pouring into the
am terrified about acidification,”
Heaps told the Guardian. “That situation is looking very bleak. We
were taught in the 1980s that the solution to pollution is dilution,
but that suggests the oceans have an infinite capacity to absorb our
pollution. That is not true, and we have reached the capacity now.”
predicts that all of the world’s coral reefs could be effectively
lost by 2050, if current trends are allowed to continue unchecked,
and said that evidence of the effects of acidification – which
damages tiny marine animals that rely on calcium to make their shells
and other organs - could be found from the Antarctic to the US west
overfishing is a global problem, the Pacific is of particular
concern, as the Chinese, Japanese and Korean fleets are among the
world’s biggest, greater in size and fishing capacity than
Heaps said there were solutions. “It’s not all doom-and-gloom.
There are choices we can make. But it is urgent.”
can be managed with better governance – Heaps points to the
recovery in North Sea cod stocks as an example of how management can
work. She also urged governments to adopt the sustainable development
goals, proposed by the United Nations and including provisions for
protecting marine life, at the UN general assembly later this month.
has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years, says WWF
urged people to eat fish certified as sustainable by the Marine
Stewardship Council (MSC),
which examines fisheries against a range of criteria to ensure that
they are being properly managed. An increasing number of fisheries
have been accredited by the MSC, and at present about half of global
white fish stocks are certified, including many in the North Sea.
called for more partnerships between private sector fishing fleets
and governments, in order to conserve stocks. “We need to keep
[fishermen] on board, because they must see that good governance is
in their interests,” she said.