While researchers have been warning of the decline of many seafood fish stocks in oceans around the globe for years, idle commercial fishermen from every seaport and island community are finally feeling the bite, verifying the dire state of affairs.
On southern Italy’s Favignana Island, groups of “old salt” fishermen stand around the docks telling stories about the good old days when runs of bluefin tuna were plentiful enough to support the island’s economy. The bluefin run has dwindled to almost nothing in recent years, leaving fishermen idle and the rest of the islanders wondering about their fate. The phenomenon is not localized, however. The same story is being played out in economically depressed seaport fishing towns all over the world, as fish stocks plummet, primarily as a result of technology-aided overfishing in all of the world’s oceans.
“This is no sudden crash, but rather an extremely slow-speed fatal collision,” laments Carl Safina of the nonprofit research and advocacy group Blue Ocean Institute. “For decades, the world has moved blindly toward a precipice. We have been confronted with signs and warnings and a clear view of the danger. And now we have fallen off.”
While several nations and the international community have put regulations limiting the catch of many prized seafood species, some fishermen ignore the limits, as there is little if any monitoring. Fearful of the crash, they are motivated to “get out the catch” as big as they can in an effort to maximize short-term profits, even if it represents the final blow for an already struggling species like Favignana’s bluefin.