Food & Drink

The Ocean Has Just Half the Fish It Had 45 Years Ago

Published On 10/12/2015 Published On 10/12/2015

If you look at the world's oceans today, you'll spot a bunch of garbage -- like that enormous trash turd in the Pacific -- and, worse, alarmingly fewer fish than there were just a few decades ago. In fact, not even half as many fish are floating around there today, just another sign us humans are great at ruining everything.

Specifically, the World Wildlife Fund's recent "Living Blue Planet Report" suggests there are now only half the fish in the world's oceans compared 1970, according to a report by Grubstreet. Researchers examined 5,829 populations of more than 1,200 species of fish and other marine animals, and found that some had declined by some 49% in the period between 1970 and 2012. Worse yet, some fish species -- tunas, mackerel, and bonitos -- have declined by almost 75%, and diminishing numbers of popular sushi fish like bluefin and yellowfin tunas are of "particular concern," according to the WWF. But what is behind this dramatic drop in ocean life? Take a wild guess.

Human actions like overfishing and habitat destruction, the study suggests, are the biggest factors at play. On top of that, climate change and pollution have led to rising water temperatures and higher acidity levels, which only make matters worse for the weakened system, according to WWF.   

“As well as being a source of extraordinary natural beauty and wonder, healthy seas are the bedrock of a functioning global economy," Louise Heaps, Chief Advisor on Marine Policy at WWF-UK, said in a press release. "By over-exploiting fisheries, degrading coastal habitats and not addressing global warming, we are sowing the seeds of ecological and economic catastrophe."

For the average person, that means making sure your seafood is responsibly sourced and calling on your government to take action on climate change and protecting vulnerable habitats, the organization said.

You can just hold on to your "plenty of fish in the sea" jokes, because, well, you might not be able to make that joke for much longer if we keep it up.

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Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and hasn't gone fishing in many, many years, so don't blame him. Send news tips to and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.



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