Sunday, March 8, 2009

this may sting a little...

An interesting piece in NewScientist regarding the future of seafood in world that fails to properly respond to the effects of overfishing, climate change and pollution. What is the future, you ask? Oceans and menus dominated by jellyfish! They are low in fat (unfortunately also low in protein) and high in copper, iron and selenium (and a tad too high in sodium). The Chinese have been eating them for more than 1,000 years - sometimes as sushi, in soup, on top of salads, and even disguised as a type of crunchy noodle or hidden in cookies. Of course jellyfish aren't the only alternative in our oceans. Marine phytoplankton, squid steak, algae cake... Tell me those don't get your taste buds tingling?!

Anywho, there are far too many factoids in the article for me to paraphrase so here are a few excerpts about world jellyfish domination:

"If we do empty the oceans of fish, it will leave a gaping hole in our diet. Fish provide around 20 per cent of our intake of animal proteins, according to a 2007 estimate of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). That means each of us wolfs down an average of 16.4 kilograms of fish per year. National figures vary widely, from virtually none in some landlocked nations like Afghanistan, to about 20 kilograms per person per year in the UK and US and a whopping 180 kilograms in the Maldives.... This demand is increasing rapidly, as a result of the rising global population and increasing prosperity in the developing world. Maintaining catches at current levels is becoming difficult, let alone increasing them. According to the FAO, more than 75 per cent of the world's fish stocks are either fully exploited, over-exploited, or recovering from past depletion."

"The reasons for these changes are complex. Shifts in climate, currents and sea temperature will have played a part, but a major factor is the collapse of the once abundant sardine and anchovy fisheries. In the late 1970s, the total fish catch was around 17 million tonnes per year. Now it is closer to 1 million tonnes. And since jellyfish eat fish eggs and larvae, as well as compete with young fish for food, the shift to a jellyfish-dominated ecosystem rather than a fish-dominated one may be irreversible, say the team.... Blooms of jellyfish have also appeared in the overfished waters of the Black Sea, Alaska, the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Mexico. In the Sea of Japan, overfishing of sardines and anchovies, plus blooms of phytoplankton caused by nutrient-rich coastal run-off, have led to a jellyfish problem of epic proportions: autumn blooms of the giant jellyfish Nemopilema nomurai, which can grow to more than 2 metres in diameter. In 2003 alone this jellyfish cost the Japanese fishing industry over $100 million, "clogging and bursting nets, causing high mortality of the catch due to venom, increasing the risk of capsizing trawlers and giving fishermen painful stings", says Masato Kawahara, a marine ecologist at Hiroshima University in Japan."

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