The size of undersea creatures seemed to follow a strange but stable pattern—until industrial fishing came along.
“The world that I grew up in is gone,” says Kristin Kaschner, a marine ecologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany.
Between 1890 and 2001, the population of all whale species declined from more than 2.5 million to under 880,000. While the population of some whale species has rebounded since the global whaling moratorium in 1986, many are still endangered. And while the majority of fish stocks are fished in a way that allows them to maintain or grow their populations, just over 34 percent of them are overexploited, which means we’re removing so many fish from a certain area that their populations cannot recover. Some of the fish stocks being overexploited include Japanese anchovy, Alaska pollock, and South American pilchard.
“I think we are moving towards a world where the default is not a natural ecosystem in which everything is as you had it before there was human exploitation and intervention,” says Kaschner.