The Empty Ocean


  1. this is so stark a change I have to wonder if the scientists' methodology is flawed.
    not every environmental metric has gone in the wrong direction the last hundred years
    for instance north american forests are larger today than they were a hundred years ago.

    • Paul Kedrosky says:

      I wondered same thing, but all the research — as well as nauticaldiaries — point in this direction. Read Mowat's “Sea of Slaughter”,for example, to get a sense of what the Grand Banks fishery used to belike. Dramatic changes.

    • A hundred years ago, fishing nets probably weren't dragging the bottom to remove everything but the sand.

    • himself says:

      True the forests are larger mot they are not as diverse. Monoculture has set in

    • Are they larger? How about dates, figures and souses for that claim?

      Or are you being selective with that date? What if to use 1860 (pre US civil War), instead of 1910l How about 1810 or 1760?

  2. My first thought for the 1900 map was: what's that weird triangle of high fish density doing in the middle of the Atlantic. I looked it up – it looks like it is due to the archipelago of the Azores.

  3. If this is true, that sucks.

    It seems clear that even from a pure business perspective, this is totally counterproductive. Clearly the seas are running far below their potential to the detriment of everyone involved.

    If this is anywhere near accurate, I bet if 50% of the good fishing grounds were randomly chosen to be blocked off forever from fishing, the other 50% would much more than make up the difference, just by letting the ecosystem start to recover.

    And that's just from the perspective of self interest. This may be one of the few areas of low-hanging fruit left, where there really is a free lunch!

  4. Danny L says:

    As I understand it, North American fish stocks have stabilized. Everywhere else in the world is almost completely screwed. As long as the Japanese are willing to drop 5 figures to have tuna hunted in the Mediterranean and shipped overnight, world fisheries will continue to decline.

  5. Would be interesting to see the equivalent Pacific maps too. There are interesting passages in 'The 100-Mile Diet' by Alisa Smith & J.B. MacKinnon about historic marine abundance around Vancouver, BC.


  1. […] That’s the message of a 2003 study by Villy Christensen, Sylvie GuĂ©nette, and other researchers (via Paul Kedrosky). […]

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