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June 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 42, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Fifty-Nine Missing Fish Species

from the June, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Divers who have been around awhile know how reef fish have declined, and we search for more distant shores to do our diving. The Philippines is one such spot, but in the past 65 years, changes there have been enormous.

Scientists conducted 2,655 interviews with fishermen, learning that 59 fish species have gone missing from catches between the 1950s and 2014. "Similar to the Newfoundland cod, where we saw stocks crash due to overfishing, these reef fish populations have been overexploited, and they may never recover," explains Professor Nick Polunin, of Newcastle University, UK.

The team highlighted five finfish that are now fighting for survival -- the green bumphead parrotfish, the humphead wrasse, the African pompano, the giant grouper and the mangrove red snapper.

Polunin says, "These losses we've recorded in the Philippines are reflective of unsustainable exploitation affecting this exceptionally species-rich ecosystem and region, but they mirror what is happening in ecosystems around the globe. The knock-on effects of losing these species are huge: loss of the big predators is likely to radically affect the structure of the whole system."

Before you order a fresh fish dinner on your next dive trip, you might want to give a little thought to the dying reefs.

And you might want to give thanks for the last refuges on our planet -- such as the Andamans in our current travel story -- where nations police the waters and protect them from unsustainable fishing.

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