The world will run out of seafood in just over 40 years unless action is taken soon, scientists have warned.
An International team of ecologists, fisheries scientists and economists have shown that marine species loss is accelerating, threatening human well-being, and that seafood fisheries could collapse by 2048.
Their findings have been reported in the journal Science today.
The experts analysed local experiments, long-term regional time series data and global fisheries statistics to determine how biodiversity loss affects marine ecosystems on a number of levels.
The results indicate that marine biodiversity loss is on the increase, which is "impairing the ocean's ability to provide food, maintain water quality and recover from peturbations".
Boris Worm, Assistant Professor of marine conservation biology at Dalhousie University and the lead author of the report, said:
"Species have been disappearing from ocean ecosystems and this trend has recently been accelerating. Now we begin to see some of the consequences. For example, if the long-term trend continues, all fish and seafood species are projected to collapse within my lifetime -by 2048.
"29% of fish and seafood species have collapsed - that is their catch has declined by 90%. It is a very clear trend, and it is accelerating. We don't have to use models to understand this trend; it is based on all the available data."
However, the results also indicate that it's not too late for a recovery plan, as the current trends appear to be reversible.
The scientists studied 48 marine areas around the world where the biodiversity had been protected and showed that species could recover and that ecosystem productivity and stability could be enhanced by effective management.
For more information see the paper: Worm B et al. (2006) - Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services. Science 3 November 2006: Vol. 314. no. 5800, pp. 787 - 790. DOI: 10.1126/science.1132294.