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The End of Fish


As I’ve said before, we people living today are the likely the last people who will ever eat saltwater fish on a commercial scale. The World Wildlife Fund and Brad Plumer sum the situation up in one chart and one article.

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  • efgoldman

    As if RI and Southeastern MA didn’t have enough troubles…

  • c u n d gulag

    We are horrendous stewards of this planet.

    We are very good at destroying this planet.

    • Linnaeus

      I’ve been doing some environmental management stuff for the consulting firm that I work for. Yep, we are pretty good at that.

  • Linnaeus

    What’s more, we’ve seen localized versions of this very same problem. If you grew up near the Great Lakes, as I did, much of the fish you ate was probably freshwater (there’s that PCB and heavy metals contamination problem, but that’s leave that aside for now). But even though such fish is still available, it’s not nearly so on the scale it once was. The Great Lakes commercial fishery had pretty much collapsed by the end of the 1950s. Overfishing was the main problem, and invasive species that came in after the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway didn’t help matters.

    • rm

      My great-grandparents kept a journal of their Lake Huron fishing vacations in the 1920s. Every morning the men went out and caught a bunch of 10-pound pickerels and walleyes.

  • DocAmazing

    Is Ron Paul related to Mrs. Paul?

    • c u n d gulag

      Cod knows, that’s a fluke question!

      Don’t get in the halibut of doing that.

      • DocAmazing

        I only ask because of Billy Paul and Mrs. Jones…

        • Hogan

          They got a thing goin on?

    • Sev

      By marriage, undoubtedly, though while he has (one hopes)been egged occasionally, I very much doubt that he has been breaded.

  • c u n d gulag

    Oh, and I’ve been doing my part to save the fishies!

    I haven’t eaten sushi or sashimi for almost 4 years – and it’s my favorite food on the planet.

    I’m a big, tall, guy, and can knock off a sashimi platter as an appetizer,, and then 2, 3, 4, or more, rolls for dinner – and some more sushi for dessert.
    By myself!
    One of my best friends, another big, and even taller, guy, and I would order a “boat” for appetizer, and then FSM knows how many rolls for dinner and appetizers.
    His wife, after joining us a few times, said she would never come with us again. It was too disgusting. That we were like two starving Sumo wrestlers at an ‘all you can eat, sushi/sashimi buffet!
    The two of us could easily blow $200-300 dollars on food, beer, and sake – NOT counting the tip!

    Of course, to be honest, that may be more of a product of being mostly unemployed for the last 3 1/2 years, than any sort of discipline and concern for the ecology…

    Still, voluntarily or not, at least I’ve done my (not so) small share in helping slow down the destruction of the oceans and their denisons.

  • Amok92

    The end of Fish :(

    The end of Phish :)

  • James E Powell

    This is but one of many charts that tell us that we cannot continue to live the way we do now. For a number of reasons, the cold reality of these charts have almost no effect on the beliefs or behaviors of the great mass of Americans. The discussions or debates or whatever you want to call them focus on completely unrelated issues.

    No one running for office can say, “We have to change,” so no one does.

    • LeeEsq

      This is the biggest problem with environmentalism, politics. Very few politicians, especially in the American system, can get away with openly advocating the changes that are necessary in human life to save the world. Less consumption of fish, of meat, of foods exotic to the location, less car use and more transit use, and smaller/denser housing. These are only some of the minor changes necessary. How do you bring these changes about when the voters reject them outright?

      • James E Powell

        What’s worse, they not only reject the changes, they reject any discussion of the need for changes. So no widespread base of knowledge or understanding is established. Thus, anyone attempting to raise environmental issues is starting from a long way back.

        • Linnaeus

          It’s hard work, and I’m sure folks are doing it already, but one thing that would help is to demonstrate how environmental concerns are connected to other concerns. I think too many Americans still have this notion that environmental issues are just “lifestyle” concerns that have nothing to do with how most Americans live. Of course, that’s not true, but the case needs to be made that it’s not true every time.

        • LeeEsq

          Yes, this a million times. If you can’t even talk about the problems than reaching the solution is itself nearly impossible. The environment is the elephant in the room.

      • joe from Lowell

        How do you bring these changes about when the voters reject them outright?

        The only answer I can come up with is to show them that it works. People raised to idealize the suburbs are never going to appreciate walkable urbanism unless they actually see and enjoy examples of walkable urbanism. People used to eating 14 oz. cuts of steak right off the grill are never going to appreciate veggie dishes until you put a steaming, delicious-smelling plate of veggie stir fry in front them.

  • I see Loomis has now clarified his Chicken Little routine that there will be no more fish in the future to there will be no salt water fish. This seems a lot more reasonable. Farmed fresh water fish are still kg for kg a lot, lot, lot cheaper than chicken in West Africa.

    • James E Powell

      Right, because ‘no salt water fish’ isn’t really something to be concerned about.

      • No, because empirically if there really was a severe shortage of _all_ fish in the world then comparative prices even in Ghana should reflect that. Instead of fish going up in price here it is chicken. I don’t think that means there is a world wide shortage of chicken because prices elsewhere have not skyrocketed. But, I have seen no evidence despite Loomis claims that farmed fresh water fish is not sustainable.

        • Murc

          Depends on the fish.

          Tilapia and a number of catfish can absolutely be farmed sustainably.

          And if those are the only fish available, people will either eat those or not eat fish. But people don’t want to eat tilapia and catfish. They want huge slabs of whitefish (haddock, cod, etc.) They want tuna. They want salmon. And they’ve demonstrated that they’re willing to fish those stocks to extinction while simultaneously fucking up the ocean in other ways.

          • ajay

            But lots of saltwater fish can also be farmed sustainably. Salmon can. Tuna can. Cod can. (They aren’t, generally, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be.) I think Loomis needs to cut back again to “we people living today are the likely the last people who will ever eat wild-caught saltwater fish on a commercial scale”, which is, in his defence, exactly what he’s been saying in the past.

            • Murc

              Can fish that eat other fish actually be farmed healthily, sustainably, and in numbers large enough to be available to the average person in a supermarket?

              I mean, I’d be thrilled if that were true, but to my knowledge current salmon farming is an ecological nightmare, and that tuna farming is just getting off the ground and aquaculture experts are DEEPLY skeptical about it.

              • ajay

                A lot of current salmon farming is an ecological nightmare, as is cod farming – and tuna farming is still experimental – but there are examples of sustainable non-nightmare farming for all of them, so there’s no reason to suppose that farming salmon is inherently nightmarish. I mean, a lot of farming on land is an ecological nightmare too.

                As to the amount that you can produce – I don’t know. I’m not a history professor, so I’m not really in a position to be authoritative on aquaculture. Depends what the constraints are (fodder availability? suitable sites?)

                • Murc

                  Amount does matter in this context. I mean, I’m sure if you have enough money, there will always be cod for you. But the big question is will you be able to go to the store every Friday and buy a nice big piece of it for fish fry?

          • Tilapia, mud fish (a type of cat fish), and most of all red fish are farmed here. Salt water fish is far less popular.

  • MosesZD

    I see where you’re going with this…

    But actually not. What will eventually happen is the stocks will collapse, follows by the industries will collapse, the fishing companies lose all their money and, finally, someone will do something along the lines of rational fish management.

    Then our grandchildre will be able to start eating wild-caught fish again. Though it’ll be mostly ‘gourmet’ and frowned upon, like veal.

    • MosesZD

      This early in the morning I should be using a spell checker. Need more coffee…

  • AcademicLurker

    On the “glimmer of hope” front, the Chesapeake bay crab fishery was collapsing in the 90s and has bounced back to almost pre-decline levels because the surrounding states wised up and instituted sensible fisheries management programs.

    So people are occasionally capable of learning something.

  • proverbialleadballoon

    it totally sucks what we’ve done and are in the process of doing to this planet. the people living now are going to be the last people to know what ‘normal’ weather is, and fish in the sea, gasoline, fresh water as an abundant commodity, rainforests, all of it. the people running the world are insane sociopaths. the only way the human race will survive in the future is to return to hunter/gathering. the farming culture for thousands of years has encroached on other’s territories, killed the others, and stolen the land, for cultivating. but in the future the farming culture will collapse, it’s already fraying.

    • Lee

      Okay, this is just ridiculous. I’m somewhat pessimistic about the ability of humans to implement the mass changes necessary to save the environment. I still think that this is highly more likely than returning to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

  • David M. Nieporent

    “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate…”

    • Malaclypse

      “If we were to make no better use of victory than to countenance existing trends in this direction, only too visible before 1939, we might indeed find that we have defeated National Socialism merely to create a world of many national socialisms, differing in detail, but all equally totalitarian, nationalistic, and in recurrent conflict with each other.
      The Germans would appear as the disturbers of peace, as they already do to some people, merely because they were the first to take the path along which all the others were ultimately to follow.”

    • Murc

      This quote confuses me, David. It would only be appropriate if Erik were making some sort of prediction of Malthusian doom. He has done no such thing.

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