as we know them may cease to exist over the coming centuries. If marine organisms are unable to evolve rapidly enough to adapt to changing ocean conditions, then many, if not all of them may become extinct. On that note, what would a world without fish be like?
The general scientific consensus is that pollution and overfishing are currently the two main causes of marine life destruction. First, here is a few facts about the state of the world’s fisheries, which show that a world without fish is a very distinct possibility¹:
- The total world catches of oceanic fish peaked in 1989, and global catch rates have been steadily declining since.
- As early as the 1990’s, most of the world’s major fisheries were in steep decline. The perfect example of this is the Grand Banks fishery in the north Atlantic Ocean. An area which was once extremely productive, with huge amounts of cod, haddock, and flounder, most fisheries in the area have now been closed. There is doubt whether cod populations in the area will ever recover.
- Super-trawling factory ships with the ability to scour every living organism from the ocean floor in extremely deep water have become widespread across the world. These ships can catch up to 400 tons of fish every time they release their nets – a staggering 40% of which is thrown back over the side of the boat, dead, as bycatch. This is obviously not sustainable, and could be causing irreversible damage to deepsea fish stocks which we haven’t begun to see yet.
So what will happen when fish disappear from the ocean?
In 2006, marine researcher Boris Worm, along with a team of scientists and economists, published a report outlining the results of their study into an ocean without fish. They came to two conclusions: the first was that the ocean could be empty of fish by the year 2048. That’s right, in just 32 years, fish may have all but disappeared². Obviously this is a worst case scenario, but it should still serve as a wake-up call to those of us who still deny the fact that our oceans are dying. The second finding of their report was this:
If fish disappear, then life as we know it will cease to exist².
As scary as this prediction is, there is certainly some credibility behind it. No fish doesn’t simply mean the disappearance of a major food source. Rather, it would mean that our planet would experience drastic changes. Marine life in general regulates the ocean: it keeps pollution under control (for now), filters toxins from the water, and prevents the occurrence of large scale algal blooms².
The loss of the oceans as a food source would also cause widespread suffering and disaster throughout the world. Currently, 16% of the world’s protein comes from fish and other marine organisms³. This is a main food source for people who are unable to afford chicken or red meat – the poorer people in poverty stricken countries. If seafood became unavailable as a food source, an increase in poverty, malnutrition, and starvation would result⁴. However, this would be the least of our worries if Boris Worm’s predictions come true.
A world without fish is a scary prospect. Without them, life as we know it will not be possible. The ocean will no longer be able to perform many of its essential functions, leading to a lower quality of life. People will starve as they lose one of their main food sources. The effects of a world without fish would be felt by everyone. While these predictions are theoretical, it is important to realise that they could easily come true. We need to reduce the pressures we are placing on the ocean, and stop plundering it to its deepest depths to give it, and us a chance to survive.