Give tuna and salmon a break

Cut back on tuna and salmon and load your plate instead with herring and sardines if you want to help save the world’s fish.

So says the scientist who led the most comprehensive analysis carried out of fish stocks in the world’s oceans and how they have changed in the past century.

The study by Villy Christensen of the University of British Columbia’s Fisheries Centre confirmed some previous indications that populations of predator fish at the top of the food chain, such as cod, tuna and groupers, have suffered huge declines, shrinking by about two-thirds in the past 100 years. More than half of that decline has occurred in the past 40 years.

However, Christensen found that the total stock of “forage fish”, such as sardines, anchovy and capelin, has more than doubled in the past century. These are fish that are normally eaten by the top predators.

“You remove the predator, you get more prey fish,” he said. “That has not been demonstrated before because people don’t measure the number; they don’t go out and count them.”

His call for consumers to shift their attention down the marine food chain from predators such as tuna and cod to more unusual fish echoes that by the British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who suggests we should eat more coley, mackerel, dab, pouting, herring and sardines.

“I know you like your fish suppers, but our appetite for the same fish, day in, day out, is sucking the seas dry,” Oliver has said. “I wouldn’t bother waiting for the politicians to sort this one out, guys, you can really help from the comfort of your own kitchen— Lay off the cod, haddock and tuna, diversify and cook up a wider range of fish.”

Christensen presented his findings last week at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, DC.

“By removing the large predatory species from the ocean, small forage fish have been left to thrive,” he said and urged consumers to eat more of the burgeoning population of forage fish, such as sardines and anchovies, while reducing their intake of top predators, to rebalance the world’s fish species.

“Currently, forage fish are turned into fishmeal and fish oil and used as feeds for the aquaculture industry, which is in turn becoming increasingly reliant on this feed source,” said Christensen.

In its analysis, his team collated data from more than 200 models of marine ecosystems around the world, using a technique called Ecopath, to estimate the mass of various fish in the world’s oceans and how it has changed from 1880 to 2007. – Guardian News & Media 2011

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Alok Jha
Alok Jha works from London, England. Science correspondent at @TheEconomist Former @WellcomeTrust fellow Author: The Water Book https://t.co/lySv8Xl9zt [email protected] Alok Jha has over 31762 followers on Twitter.

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