Fish species facing extinction: Scientists losing battle to manage stocks
Calgary Herald , 17 Feb 02

Jellyfish sandwich, anyone?

That's the future seafood snack if fisheries policies aren't changed throughout the North Atlantic countries, say the authors of the first study to examine the whole ocean.

Over the past 50 years, the study shows, the catch of preferred fish, such as cod, tuna, haddock, flounder and hake, has fallen by more than half, even though the effort put into fishing has tripled.

"Within 10 years, we'll be talking about those fish as if they were a myth," said University of British Columbia fisheries scientist Reg Watson, one of the people who conducted the study.

"We'll all be eating jellyfish sandwiches by then," he said. The study was released Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Study leader Daniel Pauly, of the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre, compared the study to a weather map.

"The map shows really bad weather over the North Atlantic."

Despite what seems to be progress in salvaging individual fisheries, Pauly said, this first "big-picture" study shows that "we are unequivocally losing the battle to manage fisheries in the North Atlantic."

The amount of the preferred fish in the sea is about seven pounds per capita, down from about 21 pounds in 1950, Pauly said. If the trend continues, they'll be all but-nonexistent in 10 years.

At the same time as fish stocks have been dropping, he said, governments of the countries surrounding the North Atlantic have increasingly been subsidizing the fishing industry -- subsidies that reached $2.5 billion US in 1997.

Pauly said the study is also one of the first to be independent of the fishing industry or national fishing ministries. It was financed by the Pew Charitable Trusts of Philadelphia.

The cost of landing fish is also increasing, according to Peter Tyedmers of Dalhousie University, mainly because of rising fuel prices. "The fuel energy needed to capture a ton of fish has doubled in the past 20 years."