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Organic fish farms essential for oceans

“This century is the last century of wild seafood,? says Steve Palumbi of Stanford University, California. “Unless we fundamentally change the way we manage all the ocean species together, as working ecosystems, then this century is the last century of wild seafood.”

A new major scientific report he has co-authored proves there will be virtually nothing left to fish from the seas by the middle of the century if current trends continue. Stocks have collapsed in nearly one-third of sea fisheries, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Writing in the journal Science, the international team of researchers says fishery decline is closely tied to a broader loss of marine biodiversity.

Catch records from the open sea show declining fish stocks. In 2003, 29% of open sea fisheries were in a state of collapse – defined as a decline to less than 10% of their original yield. Bigger vessels, better nets, and new technology for spotting fish are not bringing bigger catches. Historical records from coastal zones in North America, Europe and Australia also show declining yields, in step with declining species diversity; these are yields not just of fish, but of other kinds of seafood too.

One-third of once viable coastal fisheries are now useless. Catch records from the open ocean show widespread decline of fisheries since 1950 with the rate of decline increasing.

In the UK, the Soil Association decided in August to give full organic status to aquaculture, a decision that caused some critical comment from purists. That decision was only made after 8 years of holding aquaculture at interim status and following an extensive 3-year research project. This looked into a wide range of issues surrounding fish farming. The decline in and over-exploitation of global wild fisheries was one of the factors that convinced the Soil Association that it’s essential to engage with and bring improvements to fish-farming in order to save wild fish stocks from collapse.

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