The Crisis in Global Fisheries or Are We Shouting Wolf?

Nick C. Parker, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Texas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Texas Tech University

Lubbock, Texas 79409-2125 806042-2851 FAX 806/742-2280

The global supply of fish and fisheries products was 101 million metric tons in 1991, of which about 20% was produced by aquaculture. The projected doubling of the human population from 5.3 billion today to 10 billion-plus in 35 years will put additional strains on all food sources including fish stocks. The demographics, sociological, and economic changes accompanying growth of the world's human population will further erode environmental quality, destroy habitat and alter value systems for aquatic resources. In the past 34 years, atmospheric CO2 has increased about 10%, from 315 to 345 parts per million by volume, global temperature has increased 1F in the last century with a projected 7F increase for the next century, ozone has been depleted over the Arctic and Antarctica, and of 176 major fish stocks 29% are over exploited, 45% were fully exploited, 22% moderately exploited and only 4% were under exploited. The halibut fishery in Alaska is now two 1-day events, held twice per year, the shark fishery is now regulated along the Gulf Coast, the commercial take of red drum from the Gulf of Mexico and striped bass from the East Coast has been essentially closed for about 10 years, the composition of the commercial catch along the East Coast has shifted to contain more low value species as populations of the higher value fishes, such as cod, have been depleted. The global supply of fish and fishery products is probably inadequate to sustain the current level of exploitation, but certainly incapable of meeting projected demands. The fisheries crisis is looming and requires forceful action from fisheries professionals and the public. A mega meeting of 250,000-plus participants in the year 2001 could focus attention on the fisheries crisis and become the basis for global action plans.

Keynote address to the Southern Division - American Fisheries Society First Annual Mid-Year Technical Session and EXCOM Meeting. Feb 24 - Mar 3, 1993, Chattanooga, Tennessee. (Abstract)