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The End of Fish


It’s a good thing the Chinese don’t eat fish because this would be a problem:

However, over the past few years, fishery resources in the river have witnessed a severe decline, with the river’s ecological system currently on the verge of collapsing, according to Zhao Yimin, head of a fishery resource office with the Ministry of Agriculture.

According to statistics, the Yangtze River used to have some 1,100 species of wild aquatic animals, including more than 370 fish species of which 142 were unique to the river and some 20 had been categorized as endangered animals.

In recent years, however, the amount of fish has sharply declined, with particular species, such as the shad and blowfish, not spotted for several years.

This is believed to be the result of excessive fishing, the construction of water conservancy projects, water pollution and unregulated drainage.

Currently, most fish caught in the Yangtze River are only six months-old and some are even less than two months old, leaving them with no chance at any offspring.

Oh wait, you mean fish is central to Chinese food? And that this is really just a somewhat worse version of a worldwide phenomenon? Oh dear.

Once again, our children will think of most fish as they do the passenger pigeon. We will have to explain to them what a “fish” is. There will be some examples in the Museum of Natural History.

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  • Shakezula

    And yet only a DFH would suggest that our current rate of consumption is at all problematic and it isn’t appropriate to blame these shortages on human activity and La La La I can’t hear you.

    /Climate Disaster Denier

    There will be some examples in the Museum of Natural History.

    Aquariums will be need more security than supermax prisons.

    Oh and then there’s the ripple effect when a big chunk of the food chain goes bye bye. Imagine if you will what would happen to U.S. osprey populations in areas where there were suddenly No Fish. Yay.

  • Joshua

    From where I sit, I really have no desire to curb my fish intake, because I am just one guy.

    This is what is known as tragedy of the commons – it’s a bog standard Econ 101 lesson, but it’s frequently forgotten in favor of the evils of rent controls, minimum wages, and taxation.

    • spencer

      I always did my best to correct that when I taught, but then again, I am just one guy.

  • Trollhattan

    The great side effect will be for them to go forth and vacuum the open ocean and unprotected coastal waters for whatever still swims, speeding collapse of who knows how many ocean stocks.

    Yay, us.

  • Mrs Tilton

    Between the disappearance of fish and the disappearance of honeybees, and the resulting ripple effects from each, I’m not certain there will be a lot of Museums of Natural History to put examples of fish into. On the upside, though, there probably won’t be a lot of humans either.

    • Leeds man

      The few humans will probably have chronic malaria due to the disappearance of frogs.

      • BigHank53

        Given the mortality rate they’re likely to be facing, d’you think they’ll notice?

        • Shakezula

          According to the NRA, buying guns will somehow protect us from bad things when it All Goes to Hell. We can shoot the mosquitoes.

          • daveNYC

            With bazookas if the NRA has their way.

            • cpinva

              “With bazookas if the NRA has their way.”

              clearly, you’ve never been subject to a mosquito attack in new jersey.

              • Shakezula

                Or Chincoteague Island. Perhaps suitcase nukes for all is the answer.

            • Njorl
              • Njorl

                Mind you, a bazooka alone isn’t good enough. You need to put a few rounds from a 50-cal into it to make sure it’s dead. “There’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded mosquito.”

  • trivialex

    Even up here in the 49th state, renowned for its well managed fisheries and abundant stocks, we seem hell-bent on destroying not just small struggling local fisheries (see: Chuitna Coal Strip Mine), but jeopardizing entire regions (see: Pebble Project). All in the name of (a small number of) JOBS! (now) for a short-term extractive project, at the expense of demonstrably sustainable jobs in an industry that is profitable indefinitely. Perhaps increasingly profitable, as the rest of the globe seems even better at wiping out their aquatic food sources.

  • c u n d gulag

    As much as I love sushi (it’s my favorite food, even though I haven’t eaten any in almost 5 years, since, being unemployed for most of that time, I can’t afford it), you have to include that in the mix, as far as the depletion of fish.

    I never even heard of sushi until I was 23 and moved to NY City, where my Manager turned me on to it, back in ’81.

    Now, it seems like there’s a sushi joint in every strip-mall up here in the Northeast, and a whole bunch of them in the civilized parts of the Old South.
    And almost every single large supermarket now offers sushi packs.

    Now, is that great sushi?
    But, that’s still a lot of fish killed to feed us sushi lovers.

    • Kurzleg

      I’ve noticed this too. It’s hard to believe there’s that much demand, but I there must be.

      • It depends on the species. For declining bluefin stocks, the rise of global sushi matters a lot.

        • c u n d gulag

          And let’s not forget the marketing of fish.

          Nobody wanted to eat Patagonian toothfish.

          Then, they renamed it Chilean Sea Bass, and the poor creatures were fished almost to the point of extinction.

          It was the featured fish dish on menu’s all across America for about 10+ years.

          And well over half the stuff served in all but the most exclusive and expensive sushi restaurants, is mis-labeled.
          So, basically we don’t know what the hell we’re really eating – except that it’s some form of fish.
          At least, for now…

          • Ed

            The marketing of toothfish, squid, etc. isn’t so much a cause as a symptom. Nobody would have thought of selling such fish to eat if real seafood wasn’t fished out, but people continue to demand “seafood” in spite of the widely publicized natural consequences. Supply and demand.

            • cpinva

              this could all be fixed, instantly, just by getting the word out that all “at risk” species have been found to contain dangerous levels of mercury. that’s what kept swordfish from being fished to extinction. to this day, i have no idea if it was even true or not, but i haven’t had any since i was about 5.

              ok, there might be a problem with all the fishermen put out of business, but they seem to be doing a handy job of that all by themselves anyway.

              • c u n d gulag

                The problem isn’t the individual fisherman/woman.

                It’s the corporate fishermen, who want massive quantities, to make fishing highly profitable.

                And the nationalized fishermen, whose countries want massive quantites, to make fishing cost-effective.

                They come in and sweep away whatever is in their way, keep what they want, and discard the rest – and not in any environmentally friendly way, that guarantees survival, since that might cost a few pennies per pound on the bottom line.

                Thank goodness Soylent Green will be made from people – ’cause if it was going to be made from food from the seas, we’d all be totally f*cked.

                • firefall

                  And there goes my valuable contract for Soylent Blue ..

          • rea

            At least, for now

            Cloned fish muscle cells, grown in vats.

    • Halloween Jack

      I wouldn’t blame supermarket sushi. The stuff that my local Schnuck’s sells often has little to no fish in it anyway (e.g. avocado roll, etc.).

  • Paul

    Well maybe the Chinese will have to explain why they have no fish… But ‘the us /we’ thing is a bit of a dramatic thing is it not? Trout is farmed vary viably in the interior of the US and the USDA is working to cut the farmed trout free of fish based feed so it is not dependent on wild fisheries. There is no doubt the US and Canada have only recently banned or modified or regulated fishing as they should be doing and with only equivocal results [my impression is the cod are not bouncing back well but along California some of the marine sanctuaries are showing impressive results].

    “the disappearance of honeybees”

    Wait you mean one more invasive species introduced by European colonialism violating the pristine environment of North America?

    • Ryan F

      Yeah, I was going to say that I’m sure my children will have plenty of farmed fish to eat. Of course, there are a host of new environmental impacts to worry about with the growth of aquaculture…

      • Actually, I’m skeptical. Between changing ocean temperatures and PH balances from climate change, overfishing (which matters a lot for farm fisheries because of the amount of fish harvested to feed farmed fish), stream degradation, hydropower projects, etc., there’s a lot against fish.

        Tilapia will probably be around. And jellyfish for sure. Maybe a few other hardy species like catfish. But most of it will be long gone.

        • sparks

          Great. I despise tilapia.

          • cpinva

            breaded and pan fried catfish, can’t really top that.

        • Shakezula

          Maybe we’ll come to thank the man who released snakeheads into U.S. waters.


      • Paul

        “Of course, there are a host of new environmental impacts to worry about with the growth of aquaculture…”

        As with everything else as soon as you show me how we can all be only 100,000 hunter gather nomads you going to have to live with environmental impact (and a avg life expectancy of what 20/30?)

        Look I think its more than obvious that we have been willfully blind to the need to mange fishing far better and given the evidence even fish farming considering how it is run in much of Asia. Overall we likely need to see the price of a wild caught fish rise and beef as well so it is more sustainable long term but that is not exactly a popular point and we do live in a democracy.

        • ruviana

          Gotta pop in on this dead thread to note that hunter/gatherer lifespans were not that different from most humans. What pulls the average down is maternal/infant mortality. If you can get past that people live into their 60s and 70s. Which, I suppose from the actual topic of this thread, isn’t particularly cheering.

          • Paul

            I realize that, put the fact is you are still looking at a lot of dead babies and women dead in child birth and most women spending a lot of time being pregnant to get a viable about of children past 5.

  • Bitter Scribe

    I remember reading a New Yorker article a few years ago that explained how, thanks mostly to the voracious efficiency of modern fishing technology, mankind has literally been eating its way down the marine food chain.

    Consider squid. In the Captains Courageous days, it was strictly considered bait for “real” fish, like cod. Now they call it “calamari” and charge $10 a pop for it in fancy restaurants. One marine scientist was quoted as saying, only half-jokingly, that our grandchildren would be eating jellyfish sandwiches.

    • Jellyfish consumption is on the rise.

      • One of your colleagues (I think still with oceanographic lab space at URI, though mostly retired) told me the other day that, out east of here where the cod fishery has almost completely collapsed, the total oceanic animal biomass is pretty much unchanged—the slack having mostly been taken up by jellyfish.

        • Jellyfish is also one of the only ocean creatures that will thrive in the changing PH balance of the oceans due to climate change.

        • Shakezula

          Is that why we’ve been treated to massive hordes of the critters? Lovely.

    • Captain Bringdown

      Yum, peanut butter and jellyfish sandwiches.

    • Halloween Jack

      Had jellyfish in a Vietnamese restaurant some time ago. No real taste, but I’ve had worse.

  • wengler

    But Chinese pollution is extremely important to the free market.

    • Also, Chinese communism is extremely important to the free market, too.

  • Joe

    The random quote generator at the top of the blog just said:

    The white race cannot survive without dairy products.

    When does the vegan boycott begin?

    • Ask Herbert Hoover. It was his quote after all.

      • Joe

        Thanks. Will next time I see him.

      • Show me a white race (on this planet) that has survived without dairy products. The man had a solid point, eugenically speaking.

        • Halloween Jack

          Define “white”.

          • firefall

            White = dependant on dairy products. obviously.

  • Paul

    “When does the vegan boycott begin?”

    As soon as you are OK with mass famine, or massive fertilizer/pesticide use, more dust bowl type events and really lower standard of living.

  • Paul

    Really! If you are responding to me than describe how a vegan diet is agriculturally sound w/o massive amounts of inputs that that are environmentally/politcally objectionable or require most of us to be farmers again and accept most our budget goes to just buying food. There is a reason humans have been fishing and domesticating animals for what the last 8 or 9 thousand years (excepting dogs).

    • Paul

      Hey Now I just responding to this EL:


      THE END IS NEAAAAAR! Doooooooom


      WTF where did that post go I cannot edit mine…

      • Paul

        Honestly – No comment on a yanked post? Its your blog but frankly no defense? When all my spelling errors and grammar F-ups are locked in

    • Halloween Jack

      (excepting dogs)


      • Paul

        No I kept dogs out because they are clearly the unique far earlier domestication event and I tend to think of them as more of a co-domestication example.

  • Jack Manningham

    I didn’t see any yanked post. You must be imagining things. Go And See; Look If Google Has The thing you saw in the cache, troll.

  • Jameson Quinn

    It works better in Spanish, where the animal is pez but the meat is pescado.

  • jake the snake

    We should be looking forward to the day when Carp becomes a delicacy on available only to the very rich.
    And when we look forward the beautiful Oak signet ring the
    CEO will be awarded at his retirement. One more time Pohl and Kornbluth were eerily prescient. Maybe we can have a nice slice of Chicken Little at our retirement dinner.


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