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Seafood and fish are disappearing from the sea

Seafood and fish species loss is accelerating, and if things continue this way, researchers say their studies show we may have no more fish or seafood to eat from the ocean.

This study, published in the November 3 issue of Science, is a very thorough research project. Led by Boris Worm, a marine conservation biology specialist, ecologists and economists studied new experimental data and recent date. Their goal was to understand the impact that marine diversity has on human well-being.

They pored over historical archives covering decades and centuries. Additionally, they looked at small studies that tested what happens when one type of fish is taken out of a small environment to performing their own experiments in 12 coastal areas around the world.

Worm says "species have been disappearing from ocean ecosystems and this trend has recently been accelerating. Now we begin to see some of the consequences. For example, if the long-term trend continues, all fish and seafood species are projected to collapse within my lifetime -- by 2048."

Researchers also found that the problem is greater than losing a key food source. Damage to the oceans impact not only fisheries, but the ocean ecosystem's overall stability. This includes water quality and to increase the risks of beach closures, harmful algal blooms (red tide, for example), oxygen depletion, fish kills and coastal flooding.

"At this point," Worm said, "29 percent of fish and seafood species have collapsed -- that is their catch has declined by 90 percent. It is a very clear trend, and it is accelerating.

"The good news is that it is not too late to turn things around," Worm said. The scientists studied 48 areas worldwide that have been protected to improve marine biodiversity. "We see that diversity of species recovered dramatically, and with it the ecosystem's productivity and stability."

"Through this research, it became clear to me that we hardly appreciate living on a blue planet," Worm said. "The oceans define our planet, and their fate may to a large extent determine our fate, now and in the future."

About the Scientist

Boris Worm is an assistant professor of marine conservation biology at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada. He has always been fascinated by science and understanding how things work. Living by the ocean made him curious about sea life and he studied it in school.

"We are losing some of the marine life most important to meet the large sea turtles and large sharks are all endangered now," he said. "I live by the sea, and see whales as they travel. I know that we can see them now because 30 years ago people stopped whaling. We have time to turn around the bad things happening in the oceans."