SIX EXPERTS DISCUSS THE GLOBAL FISHERIES CRISIS; THE ECONOMIC, POLITICAL, AND SOCIAL PRESSURES THAT CONTRIBUTED TO IT; AND WHAT IT WILL TAKE TO MAKE FISH STOCKS BOUNCE BACK.The new documentary film The End of the Line paints a sobering picture: Humans have perfected the art and science of the catch, using computers to help pinpoint migratory schools and nets large enough to cinch around several ocean cruise liners. The length of hook-bearing fishing line dropped into the ocean each year could be wrapped around the globe 550 times. However, those nets and lines are culling fewer and fewer fish each year.
So few, in fact, that Boris Worm—the marine biologist around whose work the film’s narrative revolves—and Ransom Myers concluded in a 2003 Nature paper that industrial fishing had reduced global populations of sharks, tuna, and other large open-water predators by 90 percent. Three years later, Worm and his colleagues went a step further: Extrapolating from current populations in collapse, they predicted that by 2048, the oceans would be empty of fish.
Almost immediately, the 2048 doomsdate came under attack by other members of the scientific community. A particularly prominent critic was fisheries scientist Ray Hilborn of the University of Washington, Seattle. Hilborn, who is also featured in the film, told the media that Worm’s analyses were “sloppy” and called the projection “mind-boggling[ly] stupid.” . . .
Even Worm and Hilborn appear to broker a truce. They may not agree on the precise date fisheries will collapse, but neither seems to doubt that it will happen. A point not included in the film: At the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara, California, the once-rivals have recently begun collaborating on a new project to figure out why their different data or methods yield such divergent impressions of ocean ecosystems. . .
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