The World's Imperiled Fish; The Oceans; Scientific American Presents; by Safina; 6 Page(s)
The 19th-century naturalist Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck is well known for his theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics, but he is less remembered for his views on marine fisheries. In pondering the subject, he wrote, "Animals living in... the sea waters... are protected from the destruction of their species by man. Their multiplication is so rapid and their means of evading pursuit or traps are so great, that there is no likelihood of his being able to destroy the entire species of any of these animals." Lamarck was also wrong about evolution.
One can forgive Lamarck for his inability to imagine that humans might catch fish faster than these creatures could reproduce. But many people-including those in professions focused entirely on fisheries-have committed the same error of thinking. Their mistakes have reduced numerous fish populations to extremely low levels, destabilized marine ecosystems and impoverished many coastal communities. Ironically, the drive for short-term profits has cost billions of dollars to businesses and taxpayers, and it has threatened the food security of developing countries around the world. The fundamental folly underlying the current decline has been a widespread failure to recognize that fish are wildlife-the only wildlife still hunted on a large scale.