Trawl of Tears
Deepwater fish being pushed to the edge of extinction
Key species of deep-sea fish are nearing extinction, having declined by up to 98 percent in the past few decades. In a new study in the journal Nature, three researchers analyzed catches of five deepwater species from the northwest Atlantic, off the Canadian coast — each seldom harvested prior to the 1970s. They found that populations of all five had fallen precipitously, qualifying them as critically endangered under commonly accepted international standards. Similar trends have been seen in European waters. Much of the blame is being put on commercial trawlers, which in the last two decades have increasingly gone after deep-sea species. Said study coauthor Jennifer Devine, “One step that should be enacted is the protection of deep-sea habitats.” Conservationists worry that because deepwater fish typically live long lives, and can take up to 25 years to sexually mature, overfishing can wipe them out in a single generation.
Get Grist in your inbox