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Science Overload! (and the future of fish in the ocean)

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shark.jpgBiodiversity. Personalized medicine. Climate change. Global health care. Robotics. Neuroscience. The crowd and the cloud.

Phew, and that was just a sampling of the first two hours of today's AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) conference in D.C.

For me there was one panel that stood out among the rest those. This particular panel asked a rather startling question:

"Will there be fish in the ocean in 2050?"

Want to know the answer? You might want to put down your tuna sandwich first.

The good news: Yes, there will be more fish. The bad news: Nearly all the large predator fish will be gone.

Let me repeat that. By 2050 experts predict that the oceans will be nearly void of large predator fish like sharks, Bluefin tuna, marlins, etc. As Dr. Villy Christensen from the University of British Columbia said, "Imagine the Serengeti without lions. All that's left are the antelope."

In the past century we've lost nearly 67 percent of ocean's large predator fish. And the rate of decline shows no signs of slowing down.

You've probably heard the causes before, but the list includes overfishing, modernization of fishing fleets, increased pollution, decreased coastal management and climate change.

According to Dr. Reg Watson from the University of Tasmania, near 7 trillion fish were killed in 2006. No, that's not a typo. Seven TRILLION!

But here's the kicker, nearly 75 percent of that catch was converted to animal feed. Often times to feed other fish that we consumers consider more palatable.

Watson went on to say that we might have hit "peak fish" - a point where we're fishing harder and harder for the same or lower catch levels.

Once again, I'm reminded that so many of environmental problems come back to the food we put on our plates. It's one of the most important decisions we make each day.

Now I'm not saying we should all be vegetarians, but as Professor Christensen concluded, "We need to start eating the fish we catch and not using so much of it to feed other fish."

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  of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.