What Happens If the Oceans Lose Their Fish?

ocean fish

While most of us are likely aware that the earth’s oceans are at risk due to pollution, global warming and a variety of other factors, few people would guess that our largest bodies of water could be emptied of fish in less than 50 years. However, according to a study from 2006 that has resurfaced on several news sites and blogs, this is exactly what our future holds: the ocean’s fish could disappear completely by 2048, causing earth-shaking changes to how we live and potentially putting our future at risk.

In a study published in Science magazine in 2006, researchers from Nova Scotia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Panama described how they come to the conclusion that the ocean is steadily dying. Questioning what exactly would happen if all of the ocean’s fish disappeared, the team realized that due to overfishing, habitat loss, climate change and pollution, this query was actually a possibility. They went on to perform 32 experiments on several different marine environments and analyzed 1,000 years of history from 12 coastal regions. Finally, they examined fishery and recovery data from 64 marine ecosystems and 50 protected ocean areas. The team not only found that the protective measures in place were insufficient, but that, due to the way the balance of the environment had been disrupted, all sea-dwelling fish species could be gone in roughly 34 years.

While this study dates back to 2006, it is gaining recent attention because so little has changed since it was initially published. Currently, only 2.8% of the ocean is protected, and much of that protection is not enforced. As a result, many marine species around the world are attempting to continue their survival in spite of disappearing habitats and other challenges.

In light of their discovery, the research team initially made a number of basic suggestions they believed could help restore an ecological balance and prevent the loss of existing species: by instituting pollution control, habitat maintenance, sustainable management of fisheries, and creating additional, bigger ocean reserves, the researchers predicted fewer meteorological disasters, an improved fishing industry, and better overall human health. Unfortunately, eight years after the report, none of these suggestions have been accomplished on a noticeable scale. But as the ocean disappears, it is not only fish and seafood lovers who should worry; without its native species, there will be no way to filter toxins from ocean water, regulate algae blooms, and help prevent floods, potentially putting millions at risk.

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