Raising seafood a small part of saving wild fish
BREEDING seafood for human consumption
A new report predicts a catastrophic loss of fish species by midcentury.
could take a little pressure off wild fish populations, but there is no substitute for a healthy, diverse ocean ecosystem.
Though the federal government hopes to boost aquaculture to quintuple seafood production by 2025 -- providing grants to groups like Hawaii's Oceanic Institute -- it cannot disregard the need to curb the overfishing and pollution that have severely degraded the marine environment.
After analyzing dozens of studies and fishing data collected by the United Nations and various agencies, a group of scientists reported that if fishing continues at its current pace around the globe, more species will vanish and ocean ecosystems will break up.
The study reiterates findings of others that predict collapse of fish species. However, the report sees catastrophic loss of species by midcentury, much sooner than previously forecast.
The good news is that species can recover if marine ecosystems remain diverse, but problems have to be corrected soon.
As expected, fishing advocates deny the gravity of the situation. A scientist of the Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said trends, especially in U.S. waters, do not support such predictions, that though 20 percent of stocks are overfished, 80 percent are not. That kind of thinking ignores the global correlation of the marine environment.
In the report, published in Science magazine, researchers said that even small initiatives, like the ban on lay gill nets Hawaii is considering, will help. Larger ones -- establishing no-fishing reserves in sensitive locations like the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands -- will improve conditions significantly.
Aquaculture also has a role. Hawaii's growing industry can put cultivated seafood on the family's dinner table and on restaurant menus. But farm breeding should not add to the ocean's degradation. Food produced in a sea devoid of wildlife won't make for a wholesome meal.
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