Top Predator: It’s A Reality Show (But Not A Fake One On TV)

These fins used to be attached to a "top predator." Until another predator came along.

The top predator in the oceans is not one of the top predators that normally pop into your head–sharks, killer whales, swordfish, marlin. The top predator in the oceans is, well, us.

And according to researchers from the University Of British Columbia we are doing a pretty thorough job of taking out all the top oceanic predators and destabilizing the oceanic food chain (with, for example, the sort of swordfishing practices I posted yesterday).

Here’s the bottom line:

In half of the North Atlantic and North Pacific waters under national jurisdiction, fishing has led to a 90-per-cent decrease in top predators since the 1950s, and the impacts are now headed south of the Equator, according to a new study published online December 5 in the journalMarine Ecological progress Series…

[snip]..The scientists found that the exploitation of marine predators first occurred in coastal areas of northern countries, then expanded to the high seas and to the southern hemisphere. The decline of top-of-the-food-chain predators also means widespread and fundamental changes to both the structure and function of marine systems.

This is exactly the sort of finding that reinforces the analogy of humanity as locusts, systematically and relentlessly depleting resources and species around the planet. As Daniel Pauly, principal investigator of the Sea Around Us Project at UBC, asks: “After running out of predator fish in the north Atlantic and Pacific, rather than implementing strict management and enforcement, the fishing industry pointed its bows south. The southern hemisphere predators are now on the same trajectory as the ones in the northern hemisphere. What happens next when we have nowhere left to turn?”

That’s an obvious question that has no good answer. And we got here because the price and consumption of fish in no way reflects the costs of this outcome.


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