Fishing Down Aquatic Food Webs
Industrial fishing over the past half-century has noticeably depleted the topmost links in aquatic food chains
The near-constant growth in the worldwide catch of fish might lead one to think that global fisheries are in healthy condition. But as Pauly and his co-authors point out, this statistic is quite misleading. Looking at the situation in more depth, they discovered that the mix of species being caught is changing in a consistent—and alarming—way: On average, fish taken in recent years are positioned lower on the food chain than those captured decades ago. This change probably reflects a fundamental shift that has taken place in aquatic ecosystems as people fish out the most desirable top predators and then move on to take animals from lower on the food chain. Because the number of links in this chain is finite, and because few commercially attractive species are positioned near the bottom, Pauly and his colleagues argue that current practices will lead to the collapse of fisheries in many places.
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