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Health Experts Say 'Eat More Fish,' Despite Dwindling Supplies

Oct 14, 2014 08:46 PM EDT
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You've likely been hearing how our oceans' biodiversity is dwindling. Now a recent study shows that that this can impact local fisheries as well. That's a nightmare for not only fishermen and ecologists, but health experts too, who have been saying for years that the average person needs to consume more fish in their regular diet.

The study, recently published in journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, details an assessment of about 124 years of fisheries' landing records.

This assessment led Ruth Thurstan and Callum Roberts, from the University of Queensland and the University of New York, respectively, to conclude that in the United Kingdom alone, regular fishery haul has dropped to its lowest point in over 70 years. And when they accounted for processing losses and human population growth, fish availability from domestic supplies showed an almost continual decrease since the early 20th century.

The researchers also found that the average domestic fish supply falls far below consumption levels recommended by the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA). The study shows that supplies could provide each citizen a mere one fifth of the two fish meals per week the FSA recommends.

"Our paper shows the serious disconnect between healthy eating recommendations and the finite capacity of wild fish stocks to meet those aspirations," Thurstan said in a recent release. "It demonstrates how UK consumers have so far been protected from falling domestic production by increasing imports, but this demand is often filled at a high social and environmental cost in producer nations, many of them very poor."

The paper also shows how general fish supplies have declined across the globe by nearly a third within the last 40 years alone. And as Thurstan described, it has been imports and a boom in the fish-farm industry that has softened the blow that developed countries like the United Kingdom would have felt.

The researchers argue that nutrition standards should be lowered, as the beneficial protein and vitamins obtained through fish can be supplemented through other means.

"These findings are a wake-up call ... that our national health aspirations have to be considered on a global stage," Thurstan added. "We need to think carefully about the implications of promoting greater fish consumption in a world where many people are already protein deficient."

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