The role fish play in our lives is grand. From their bodily oils to protein and many other things, fish are an important part of so many cuisines and cultures. But when you are demanded by this many it is guaranteed to come with problems...
Fishing is not inherently bad, it is a way of keeping life going and bringing bread to the table by many. While feeding many, fishing is also a way of preventing overbreeding which becomes an issue when there are not enough predator species to keep the cycles stable. It is not inherently bad unless vessels catch fish faster than stocks replenish themselves, which brings the issue of overfishing to the table along with bread and fish.
Why Does Overfishing Happen?
While many other reasons can be listed, here are some of the few that result in overfishing:
Systemic overfishing is only made worse by illegal catches and trade. In fact, some of the worst ocean impacts are caused by pervasive illegal fishing, which is estimated at up to 30% of catch or more for high-value species. Experts estimate illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing nets criminals up to $36.4 billion each year. These illegal catches move through opaque supply chains due to a lack of systems to track fish from catch to consumer and import controls in much of the sector.
Almost 4 million fishing vessels are now known to exist all over the ocean, many with increasing capacity and efficiencies to catch more fish. As pressure from fishing grows, the likelihood of damage to the structure and function of the ocean ecosystem increases. Inadequate government capacity and cooperation to manage, regulate, and control fisheries and fisheries trade, especially in developing nations and on the high seas, are key factors contributing to the current problems in oceanic fisheries.
Subsidies, or support provided to the fishing industry to offset the costs of doing business, are another key driver of overfishing. Subsidies can lead to overcapacity of fishing vessels and skewing of production costs so that fishing operations continue when they would otherwise not make economic sense. Today’s worldwide fishing fleet is estimated to be up to two-and-a-half times the capacity needed to catch what we actually need.
What Is The Cost Of Overfishing?
Overfishing starts with damaging the oceans but unfortunately, it does not stop there. Overfishing puts ocean ecosystems and the billions of people who either make a living by it or have their meals based on seafood in danger. Permanently damaging the cycles of life, overfishing can even destroy a whole ecosystem in an area when abused enough. Studies have shown that overfishing has reduced fish and marine mammal biomass by 60% since the 1800s, and is currently driving over one-third of sharks and rays to extinction. Not sustainable fishing management also opens the doors to collapsing the fisheries due to insufficient stock in the following years. As the fisheries collapse, facing a food crisis becomes inevitable. In short, neglecting sustainability is more than enough to irreversibly damage everything from the environment to the market.
How Can Overfishing Be Prevented?
Just like every other environmental problem the way to prevent overfishing is through ethical planning and practices, and of course sustainability that comes with it. Cutting the ways of overconsumption thus waste, hunting only during the appropriate seasons, and using the right tools to prevent further environmental damage are merely the basic steps to keep oceans clean and healthy. Thinking and acting sustainably, and encouraging the next generations to act the same way are also a must for cleaning the oceans and keeping them clean for the future. It is impossible for the world to stop using ocean resources completely at once for it feeds and helps many, but doing things the ethical way is always possible if you are willing to help and change.
Healthy oceans lead the way and light the paths to a breathable future. Our world is the only place we can habit in at least for the foreseeable future and whose duty is it to take care of it, if not ours?