Business as Usual

What will happen to the planet, oceans, and people if we do not act? While nothing is certain (except possibly death and taxes), there is overwhelming scientific evidence to suggest severe consequences of inaction: the world is facing potential extinction of fish stocks and the subsequent collapse the entire ecosystems (Worm et al., 2006); widespread human costs due to job loss, cultural decline, and nutritional deficiencies, the latter of which will most dramatically impact the poorer developing nations (Ahmed et al., 2003); and climactic changes so extreme that the entire globe will feel the effects.

Marine Ecosystems Collapse

Evidence from global fisheries data and a plethora of experiments point to the the catastrophic impact of biodiversity loss in human-dominated marine ecosystems. As populations shrink and species die off, the ocean's food chains, water quality, and recovery potential are adversely affected. This adds to the instability of the ecosystems, which are already under strain from climate change and pollution, but the information available also suggests that we can still reverse these trends (Worm et al., 2006). With estimates placing the collapse of fisheries and all seafood species by the year 2050 (ScienCentral, 2006), we have little time to take action and save the oceans and global fisheries from unprecedented crises.

Figure MEC-1. From the Environmental Investigation Agency. Hunting down the food chain causes severe repercussions in ecosystems. Pilot whale hunt, Faeroe Island.

Human Impact

Job Loss

This concept is simple: if fisheries continue to overfish, consequently resulting in species or ecosystem collapse, the entire industry will flounder. According to the United States Department of Labor, as of 2004, there were approximately 38,000 people working as fishermen in the United States (US Labor, 2006). Greenland and Faeroe Island produce 85 kilograms of fish per capita per year - second only to Iceland, at 90 kilograms, and the Maldives, where production tops out at 190 kilograms of fish and shellfish per capita per year, placing an extraordinary amount dependence on the productivity of our oceans (NMFS, 2006). The outlook is bleak for nations and individuals dependent on the oceans: for each fisherman out of work, there is a family with an unemployed provider, an out-of-work factory employee, a bankrupted boat company, a boarded up restaurant, and several other affected industries. Though our plan will necessarily call for an overall decrease in fishermen and new job training, we hope to relocate the fishermen to new occupations, thereby avoiding greater unemployment while still retaining a fishing industry.

Cultural Impact

A large criticism of our solution is that it negatively impacts fishing cultures worldwide. While our solution does call for necessary decreases in whaling and fishing, the other options provide even less cultural sensitivity. The culture and customs of countries like are tied to the oceans and fisheries inextricably, which has been a major concern of Mission 2011. We hope to preserve national and ethnic culture, and the best way to ensure the survival of these vibrant fishing cultures is to save their source of identity: the oceans.

Nutrition Considerations

Almost 1 billion people worldwide consume fish as a primary of source of protein. Humans in general consume a protein diet that is made up of 20 percent fish. Of this, 75 percent comes from the oceans, while the remaining 25 percent is supplied through freshwater bodies and aquaculture (Duke). As global population continues to grow, there is increasing concern as to how there will be enough fish to supply the people who need it. Our solution hopes to shift fish demand in markets where fish does not constitute a necessity so that we can continue to feed the populations dependent on fish.

Global Climate Change

Regardless of cause, the global climate is getting warmer, and will continue to do so in the future. Projections vary wildly between sources, as demonstrated in the below illustration compiled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Various temperature predictions ("Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis," 2001)

However, all agree on one aspect: the oceans, as a major component of the earth's climate system, will be affected by this change. Such changes would decrease fish populations and biodiversity even if overfishing were not a problem. Many of these changes are relatively imminent, with timescales of about 100 years. Much is unknown exactly how climate will change, placing fisheries in an increasingly precarious position.

Surface temperature change between 1979 and 2004 ("Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis," 2001)

Projected surface temperature changes by 2099. ("Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis," 2001)

What does this mean for fisheries? Generally, as marine habitat conditions change, they will disrupt the species living in the habitat in a negative manner, since species are already adapted to the habitat in which they reside (Mathews-Amos & Berntson, 1999).

Specifically, projected climate changes will affect the following aspects of ocean environments:
1. Decrease/change in paths of ocean currents: ocean currents depend on specific thermo-haline circulation patterns. Changes in temperature threaten these patterns, both directly and by decreasing salinity due to polar ice cap melting (Harley, 2006). Most marine fishery ecosystems depend on the conditions these currents provide.

Current ocean circulation patterns. "Line W" refers to a "critical junction" between ocean waters that is being monitored for climate change by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (Mike Carlowicz, 2007).

2. Sea level rises: thermal expansion of water (90% of effects) and melting of glacial ice will destroy very depth-dependent ecosystems, such as coral reefs, as well as displace people in coastal cities across the planet.

3. Water composition: Warming seawater can hold less dissolved CO2 and O2 and is less salty due to the melting polar caps. Increased CO2 levels threaten species by decreasing pH, while increased O2 and decreased salt directly threaten species dependent on specific compositions (Harley, 2006). Also, as the oceans warm they no longer act as a sink for carbon emissions, thereby increasing the rate of warming.

Projected changes in ocean acidification by the year 2099 ("Antarctica does Acid - global warming, ocean acidification, and the Southern Ocean," 2006).

Perhaps the greatest effect from climate change on global fisheries could be through plankton. Plankton is the basic food source for many of these creatures, including fish larvae (Haysa, Richardsonb, & Robinson, 2005). Plankton must follow ocean currents, and are dependent on certain atmospheric conditions. It has already been found that increasing ocean temperatures affect plankton levels through ENSO cycle studies (Haysa, Richardsonb, & Robinson, 2005). However, whether plankton will be enhanced or depleted by predicted climate changes on a global scale is unknown.

Simulated levels of various plankton species' growth (Follows, Dutkiewicz, Grant, & Chisholm, 2007).

But We Can Change This