It is true that oceans were once considered as inexhaustible. But it is also true that, a while ago, we believed that we could navigate to the limits of the world and then fall into an infinite void.
Today we know that it is impossible to fall off the edge of the planet, and we also know that our oceans undergo a critical global state. Who do you think is the main cause of this situation? The human species with its destructive fishing methods and overfishing that have been preying on the seas for a long time.
Currently, industrialization of fishing exceeds the natural capacity of the oceans to provide food. As a result, over 70% of seafood marketing in the world comes from overexploitation of natural resources.
Scientists have recently discovered that 90% of fish large natural predators have disappeared. Species such as bluefin tuna, swordfish and sharks are being stripped of our seas due to fishing industries.
This is the biggest threat to our marine waters. Scientists predict that, in current conditions, the stock of fish for food will collapse by 2048.
2. Overfishing is a matter of fish. Isn’t it too much to say that it is devastating the oceans?
The problem is not only the fish we eat, but the way we catch them. Some of the worst fishing techniques threaten not only the food reserves; but also other species like mammals and seabirds, which are caught accidentally and die entangled in nets. This ruthless process is called bycatch and happens almost all the time.
Here are some facts:
• Over 300 000 small whales, dolphins and porpoises die entangled in fishing nets each year.
• Over 250 000 turtles are killed for their shells or drowned between fishing nets and ropes for tuna and other fish.
• About 40 tons of cold-water corals have been destroyed by fishing boats.
• 100 million sharks are caught on hooks
• About 150 000 tons of invertebrate species are discarded annually, in the northern seas only.
3. Could fish-farms be a better option?
Aquaculture, or fish and shellfish farming, has the potential to provide food safety and generate income with a new source alternative to overfishing. But we must be cautious about this option. Fish-farms may cause other side effects that directly affect the environment and the economy.
• The introduction of fish-farms may harm coastal areas
• Hunting of marine species may increase for the production of food for fish-farms
• Fish introduced in natural marine areas may escape.
4. Does it mean we have to stop fishing? Wouldn’t this affect fishermen’s job?
This is not about ending fishing altogether. However, we need to find better management practices of what we fish. It is a fact that fishermen and coastal communities will be the first to feel the impact of the reduction of fish stocks. In Canada, there are enough examples of this. In the early 90's, 110 000 people worked in the fishing industry, but in 1992 the collapse of codfish left 40 000 unemployed including 10 000 fishermen.
Ten years later, codfish has not recovered yet and, according to the latest scientific studies, the ecosystem has taken significant changes to which this species will not be able to adapt. This means it will never be as it was before.
A similar example occurs in Senegal, where barracudas can no longer be caught. Fishermen have been forced to change their diet to small fish called Kobos, simply because there is nothing else left to catch. Consequences of overfishing are already reflected in the lifestyle change of thousands of people, and the loss of jobs around the world.
5. Is there anything we can do to solve this problem or is it too late?
There are many things we can still do to take action now. WWF concentrates its efforts for marine conservation in finding solutions such as:
• Delivering sustainable fishing
• Improving the conditions of marine ecosystems
• Reducing the impact of climate change
• Promoting sustainable seafood choice between consumers and suppliers
Helping marine life is one of the challenges we can overcome as consumers, making better choices in terms of food and therefore reduce the impact.