50 years ago, humans could pick the oceans clean

Excerpt from the August 6, 1966, issue of Science News


ALL YOU CAN'T EAT BUFFET  Scientists warned 50 years ago that people could eat the oceans bare. Even with fishing limits, some food species such as pufferfish, remain in danger of overfishing. 

Chris 73/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Seafood is exhaustible — Man is capable of using up the resources of the ocean … and if he is going to exploit them intelligently, he has a lot to learn…. The world’s annual fish catch went up from 23 million to 46 million tons between 1953 and 1963, and is now estimated at 50 million tons, but scientists do not expect it to double every decade indefinitely. — Science NewsAugust 6, 1966.


The fish catch hasn’t doubled every decade, but increasing catches still cause concern. The Fisheries and Aquaculture Department of the United Nations reported a worldwide catch of more than 89 million metric tons in 2010 and 93 million tons in 2014. These numbers may be an underestimate, ignoring small-scale fisheries, scientists reported in 2016. While governments set limits on fishing certain species, some critically endangered and threatened species — such as Chinese pufferfish and Pacific bluefin tuna — remain food favorites.

Bethany was previously the staff writer at Science News for Students. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology from Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

More Stories from Science News on Oceans