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Fishing

I have discussed farming and agriculture, but so far have not seriously looked at the problems of fishing. In part this is because most of us will visit the countryside and recognize the changes that are taking place. With fishing, however, the activity is not generally visible; nor can we see how well the shoals of fish and other maritime creatures are surviving. Nevertheless, detailed studies have been made for the last half-century of fish populations from all the major regions around the world. A typical pattern is that, relative to the 1950s, stocks dropped rapidly to about a quarter of their original values. In many cases, the numbers have stayed at this new low level because the quantities of fish are so low that they are becoming uneconomic for the industry. Falling to one quarter may not seem too dramatic. However, for cod in the North Atlantic, there are reliable data going back a further hundred years. Here the numbers are quite depressing, as the stocks were then perhaps 20 times higher than at present. Although mechanization and the use of sonar and satellite imagery may all be valuable technological advances for the industry in terms of finding the fish, the improved techniques are causing catastrophic declines in the populations of fish in our oceans.

Attempts at local and global legislation have been made, but are ignored by many nations. At the more local level, the rules still seem to favour larger fishing fleets, resulting in hardship for individual fishermen. This is still an area that needs better thought-out strategies for control, along with a parallel effort in fish breeding.

 
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