The Atlantic Ocean has a history of drama – it's been crossed on logs, in papyrus boats; rowed and swum across. What takes humans weeks or months to do, bluefin tuna can do in a matter of days and whales routinely do. It was at one time the ocean of plenty for fishermen, but there are far fewer fish crossing it now.
The Atlantic Ocean is the second biggest of the five oceans and covers more than a fifth of the world’s surface. It is named after the Greek god Atlas. Appropriate perhaps that Atlas carried the weight of the world on his shoulders, as the Atlantic has been at the forefront of ocean discovery and ocean destruction in equal measure.
The Grand Banks cod collapse is one of the most famous examples of the relentless over-exploitation of the Atlantic’s natural resources, along with the collapse of the whaling industry. Ten years after the Grand Banks collapse it was estimated that populations of cod, hake, flounder and haddock had still fallen by as much as 95%. More recently the plight if the Atlantic bluefin tuna is already showing the same pattern of overfishing to the point of collapse, despite repeated warnings by scientists and environmentalists.
With fishing grounds in the North Atlantic fished out or catch levels heavily restricted because of overfishing, fleets are moving to other areas of the Atlantic, sending massive factory ships into the waters off West Africa – often without licenses and certainly without worrying about the repeated pattern of over-exploitation. Countries that rely on fish as a primary source of protein are seeing their food being fished out and shipped back to Europe.
The Atlantic not only has turbulent fishing grounds, but is also under pressure from deep seabed mining, oil drilling and mineral extraction.