When Will All The Fish Be Gone?

This is the third article in a series examining specific resource depletion and calculating – roughly – when the depletion of specific resources will result in societal conflict.   In the previous two blog posts we examined the timeline for the depletion of water (aquifers) and phosphorous rock.  This post looks at the depletion of global fisheries.  The best place to start is with this graph from Science magazine.

Global fisheries are severely stressed, with some two-thirds over-fished and the remaining third depleted.  According to the FAO study that backed the above graph, global fisheries will be entirely depleted by about 2045.  The problem is that the loss of fisheries is progressing more rapidly than the above graph (from 2006) indicates.  The below maps, from WWF’s 2012 “Living Planet Report” give some sense of momentum:

It is interesting to note that total global wild fish catches have been in a slow decline since about 1990, despite the fact that billions and billions have yearly been spent on longer-range boats, upgraded gear (nets) that allow deeper-then-ever catches and sophisticated electronics that allow boats to pinpoint schools of fish.  The level of catch is so unsustainable that the crash, when it comes, will be very steep.  The advent of this crash is being rushed by the warming of the oceans and, in particular, by the acidification of the oceans.

The loss of sea-based protein is a very, very big deal indeed.  About one billion people rely on the sea as their primary source of protein.  The loss of sea protein will mean increasing famine, increasing malnutrition, increasing forced migration, and, in particular, increased societal conflict and war.

The biggest problem comes when one billion people are increasingly forced to rely on land-produced food for their survival, adding very significant pressure to resource that currently is not sufficient for the planet (one eighth of the world’s population is currently malnourished).  As has been covered repeatedly in this blog, increasing food prices spur societal conflict and war.

Of course, the collapse of ocean fisheries does not mean an end to fish.  Farmed fish production has been increasing by leaps and bounds.  The problem is that farmed fish rely on either ground small fish (such as anchovies) or on crops such as soy and wheat products and by-products.  Thus, crops that could be used to feed humans are diverted increasingly to feed fish and, when anchovy stocks collapse, grains will be diverted to farm fish to an even greater degree.  What this means, in reality, is that the very poor of the world (and there are 3.5 billion people on earth who earn $2.50 per day or less) will be competing with fish-food makers – and it is a competition that they will lose.  The graph below, from this report, shows the peaking and decline of global fish catch, as well as the exploding production of farmed fish:

So, to the crux of the issue:  When will fisheries depletion impact societies and increase rates of famine, poverty, conflict, forced migration, etc.  The answer:  Its already happening and it will peak within  about 20 years (fish stocks will continue to be depleted beyond 20 years, but the bulk of depletions will occur in the relative near-term.

Thus, we find that the conclusion for this depleting resource is essentially the same as the two we looked at previously:  Impacts that will result in the fulfillment of prophecy (Matthew 24:6-8) are already beginning to be felt, and those impacts will increase dramatically in the coming years.

We truly live in the final days and are seeing the fulfillment of prophecy before our eyes.

Scott Christiansen