Fish are getting harder to find and soon will be affordable only by the wealthy

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The distance fish are transported between being caught and being eaten has increased steadily since the 1950s, according to Australian analysis of global fisheries data.

Professor Reg Watson, in a paper in the journal Nature Communications, says projections of wild and farmed seafood resources indicate nations are unlikely to continue feeding themselves at current levels with protein from the ocean without making significant changes.

“The clear message is that global marine resources are finite and there are not enough to go around,” says Watson from the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies.

The study is the first in the world to consider changes in the efficiency of sourcing seafood to the end of this century.

Many countries already require areas multiple times the size of their own waters to support their population’s seafood requirements. Fleets travel widely and seafood is traded globally in large volumes.

The University of Tasmania research team examined global patterns of where seafood is sourced from ocean ecosystems and where it is consumed, what portion of global marine production is required, and whether through aquaculture to supplement wild sources we can hope to meet future demands.

“Our results illustrate how incrementally each year, marine foods have been sourced farther from where they were consumed and moreover, require an increasing proportion of the total ocean primary productivity that underpins all marine life,” Watson says.

Historically, marine production supported some of the world’s poorest people but increasingly marine protein is sold to provide for the affluent.

“While aquaculture has allowed our consumption of seafood to increase, it continues to require feeds based on fully or near fully-exploited wild stocks,” Watson says.

“Our examination of the global ocean’s ability to meet future demands to 2100 indicates that even with aquaculture supplementing near-static wild catches, growing demand is unlikely to be met without significant changes.”

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