Monday, October 08, 2007
Are cephalopods safe from overfishing?
Almost everyone assumes that cephalopod overfishing won't happen. Yeah, well people used to say that about sardines too. I don't buy the argument. The rationale for squid is the same for sardines: they're short-lived, prolific, and fluctuate naturally, so they'll never be overfished.
Sardines famously crashed in California in the 1940s, illustrating the problem. During a down cycle of low reproduction, heavy fishing continued. Instead of dropping naturally to something like 20% of peak numbers, the overfished sardine collapsed to around 0.1%, and took decades to recover. They missed the next "boom" period because there were too few breeding sardines left.
So what's the future for cephalopod fisheries? Some squid fisheries have collapsed in the past, in California and elsewhere, and future crashes are likely if management doesn't improve. The blame is usually placed on natural fluctuations, but fishing has certainly played at least a contributing factor. For the most part, squid are fished with few restraints worldwide, based on nothing little more than hope. This is not a good long-term strategy.
OK, so squid may be vulnerable, how about other cephalopods? Will there be major fisheries for other cephalopods someday? Seem unlikely? Well, nothing is unlikely in ocean fisheries. If there's a market for hagfish (aka slime eels), then there's a market for anything. Tweet