In the ongoing litany of bad environmental news, the ever-declining state of the world’s oceans is perhaps the most reliably consistent subject. The latest? A just-released paper from a group of marine scientists claims that industrial-scale deep-sea fishing is turning the open ocean into a watery desert, quickly.

From this story in the Washington Post:

“Industrial fishing in the deep sea should be banned because it has depleted fish stocks that take longer to recover than other species, according to a paper to be released this week by an international team of marine scientists.

The article, published in the scientific journal Marine Policy, describes fishing operations that have in recent decades targeted the unregulated high seas after stocks near shore were overfished. Describing the open ocean as “more akin to a watery desert,” the scientists argue that vessels have targeted patches of productive areas sequentially, depleting the fish there and destroying deep-sea corals before moving on to new areas.”
“…Elliott Norse, president of the Marine Conservation Institute and the paper’s lead author, said the world has turned to deep-sea fishing “out of desperation” without realizing fish stocks there take much longer to recover.”We’re now fishing in the worst places to fish,” Norse said in an interview. “These things don’t come back.” As vessels use Global Positioning System devices and trawlers, which scrape massive metal plates across the sea bottom, the catch of deep-water species has increased sevenfold between 1960 and 2004, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. “What they’re doing out there is more like mining than fishing,” said Kevin Hassett, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.