They say a picture is worth a thousand words and in the case of Loren McClenachan’s June 2009 publication in The Journal of the Society for Conservation Biology there is evidence of a major decline in the size of fish caught in the Florida Keys. McClenachan used a unique method for quantitating the changes of reef fish size over the last 50 years by turning to photographic evidence and documented data of harvested trophy fish.
With an annual global shark harvest estimated at 100 million it should be no surprise that the lengths of sharks have dropped by 50% in the Florida Keys and around the world, but interestingly enough results show that larger sharks had been lost by 1965 in this study area. Long before the current plight of overfishing had taken root, large reef sharks were under threat from recreational and commercial fisheries in the 1930s and 40s. As such, the population of larger individuals began their decline before the mid-1960s. Unfortunately, continued and added fishing pressure have prevented their re-emergence (along with other reef fish species)in the Key’s waters, and continues to force a major shift in species composition.