Snapshot: A Hundred Years of Fishing

Remember a few days ago when I had a sea-cow over the USDA’s recommendations for twice-weekly seafood consumption? Well I took quite a bit of flak for that sentiment, particularly with a few of my seafood loving pals here in Florida.  They asked: “Why are you so dead set in believing that not all seafood is sustainable?” and “We don’t hear much about it.  I’m sure there’s plenty of fish to eat.”

After a few very long discussions, we all had to agree to disagree mostly.  I left the coffeeshops feeling very frustrated.

Maybe if I’d had the above graphic, created by David McCandless for European Fish Week (currently in progress), they’d have been able to understand my point a little more clearly.  On the left, reports extrapolated from fishing surveys from 1900.  On the right, a century of fishing later.. some of it with large fleets and in intense operations with enormous nets, the year 2000.  (Keep in mind, we’ve had eleven further years worth of fisheries impact on these areas.)

You see any blue or purple (the 11+ tons scale) in that 2000 snapshot?  No?  Neither do I.  And while we can’t express specifically that the orange take-levels are sustainable or not (and I can wax philosophic for hours about all the studies out there on this) one thing is very clear:  We are eating a lot of seafood and we are not catching anywhere near as much as we were just a hundred years ago.. even when we had inferior technology (no fish finders, for example).

Wake up and smell the orange roughy my friends.