Trinity College Dublin

Skip to main content.

Top Level TCD Links

Site map

Irish Environmental History Network - Research Highlights

IEHN - Research Highlights

Our series of Research Highlights aims to communicate the main concerns, implications and results of research being undertaken by members of the Irish Environmental History Network. Written in a concise and accessible manner, the series is designed to effectively highlight the importance of the work of IEHN members, for scholars in any discipline as well as the wider public.

19 August 2010, Where are the big fish? By Poul Holm

We're happy to publish Prof. Poul Holm's short article "Where are the big fish?" as the first of our short Research Highlights. The article appears here for the first time in English, and outlines some of the most striking discoveries of the global History of Marine Animal Populations project, of which Prof. Holm is Chair. The article originally appeared in Chinese, in Chinese Social Sciences Today (April 22, 2010), hosted by the China National Social Sciences Academy, Beijing. 

The problem of the ocean is that we don't see what's beneath the surface. On the land we can see environmental change with our own eyes. That is why fishermen's own records deserve attention... The story boils down to one single figure: we have reduced the total abundance of large fish – not just sharks but cod, tuna and all other major commercial species – by 90 per cent in the last 150 years... Skippers' logbooks are a clear indication of the scale of change. In 1874 the British fisheries observer Edmund Holdsworth noted the first indication of change: ‘It has been observed that when any newly-discovered cod-bank is first worked some fish of remarkable size are pretty sure to be caught. … But monster-cod five or six feet in length [152-183 cm], as were at first frequently reported, are now very seldom met with.' Read more.


Last updated 13 September 2017 History (Email).