Have Your Fish, and Eat Them Too!

Overfishing is a great problem, and most would agree that giving up eating fish isn’t a popular solution.  Seafood Watch was created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium to help consumers and diners make the best most sustainable choices possible. 
Seafood Watch is a program that through pocket guides, mobile applications, and outreach efforts, makes choosing the best ocean-friendly seafood choices! 

The guide rates fish on a scale of best choice, good alternative, avoid, and the “Super Green List”.  The fish to avoid are currently caught or farmed in ways that are not beneficial to the environment, but the guide will give consumers lots of other alternatives!  The “good alternatives” are fish that are a better option that that on the “avoid” list, but still are of concern.  Seafood listed on the “best” list are free for consumption without guilt!  The “Super Green List” is even better!
These lists are updated every 6 months, and downloadable from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s website.  There are guides for every region in the U.S., as well as a Sushi guide!
You can even get the MOST updated information on your smart device!  Visit mobile.seafoodwatch.org for the application download!

Raise the Alarm

I am relatively new to the idea of overfishing, and believe many other folks  feel the same way I do from having very little backgroup on the over exploitation of fish in our world’s water system. Just starting my own personal research on this subject resulted in a high level of amazement and being caught by surprise at what statistics are teaching us, while at the same time the relatively low amounts of news coverage following this. According to a Food and Agriculture Organization estimate, “over 70% of the world’s fish species are either fully exploited or depleted. The dramatic increase of destructive fishing techniques worldwide destroys marine mammals and entire ecosystems.”  This isn't just a global issue that doesn't affect Americans, but a problem that we face off our own shores as well seeing dramatic declines in many of our fishing communities. According to the website 10 Stories, “In the last decade, in the north Atlantic region, commercial fish populations of cod, hake, haddock and flounder have fallen by as much as 95%,”

Some ways that agencies are suggesting we fight these trends is instituting a catch share program. This is where the amounts of fish being allowed to fisheries as quotas would be a direct result of the amounts of fish that are in the worlds waters. If companies can produce a way to create more fish, this would then result in more fishing. This will give companies incentives to grow the fish population, which will result in larger catch quotas boosting their bottom line. An idea like this might accelerate new ways of doing business, as the way business is being done right know is far from efficent. Currently every pound of fish being sold in the market, 10 pounds is wasted (Sylvia Earle), so companies need to be held accountable and find a way be more efficient. If this current pace keeps up, the world may be out of seafood by the year 2048, and with hundreds of millions of people depending on fish as their only source of protein, a much bigger issue could soon be on the horizon.

Sources & Additional Information

The FAO Fish and Aquaculture organization - http://www.fao.org

You Tube - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxacxShp3LY

Overfishing hits all creatures great and small

On land, the pattern is a sadly familiar one: when an ecosystem is threatened, it is the large predators that usually suffer the greatest decline and therefore are most in need of protection. Logic would seem to dictate that the same pattern should apply at sea, but new research has demonstrated the opposite. It's the small fry at the low end of the marine food chain that may be more prone to population collapse.

A small body size does not improve the odds when fish species are faced with population collapse.

In the past six decades, smaller species that are commercially fished have had up to twice as many stock collapses as fishes higher up the food chain, according to a study published on 2 May in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1."There's been a lot of attention on top [ocean] predators, with good reason, because a lot of them are in trouble," says Malin Pinsky, an ecology graduate student at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, California, and co-author on the paper. "But it turns out that there actually have been a lot of collapses at the other end of the food chain as well. We weren't expecting to see that."
Large fish species are sensitive to industrial-scale fishing, so managers tend to impose stricter fishing regulations for them. Highly productive smaller fish are thought to be hardier, so they are taken at a higher rate. Although individual stocks of small fish species have collapsed — the Pacific sardine in the 1940s, for example — fishermen and fisheries managers have, in the past, considered those to be isolated cases, Pinsky and his colleagues write.
"It really wasn't until our study that we realized that all these individual collapses among small fishes actually add up to a lot," says Pinsky. "All kinds of species, including the small ones that we used to think were incredibly resilient, are also vulnerable to overfishing."

To read the full article to this link:

Fish Today, Gone Tomorrow

Over the last several decades the demand for fish throughout the world has increased. At the same time, fisheries have become more successful at catching fish, because of advanced technology (1.) These two factors combined have contributed to overfishing today, where fish are caught faster than they can reproduce and restore their numbers (2.)

A variety of fishing methods are used. Some of the most controversial include trawls, dredges, purse seining, and gillnetting. These fishing strategies involve large nets that entangle not only fish, but other animals (bycatch) such as turtles, dolphins and sharks. Also, dredges and trawls damage marine environments by scraping the bottom of the seafloor (3, 5.) To learn more about today's fishing methods, see the Monterey Bay Aquarium website

The demand for fish has caused fish prices to surpass those of other meats. Entrepreneurs and governments have been quick to invest in fisheries, because of their economic potential. Today, 200 million people depend on fishing for their livelihoods. The decline in fish populations has been significant. It is estimated that more than 70% of fish species have been fully exploited or depleted (4.) Stephen Palumbi of Stanford University said that if the trend in overfishing continues the world fisheries will collapse by mid century (6.)

There has been a significant decline in some commercial fish species. For example, the blue fin tuna that is popular in Japanese sushi has had a population decrease of 80% since 1970. The fish have become more valuable, especially in Japan where one tuna can sell for $100,000 at the Japanese fish auction (6.)

Commercial fish species from the North Atlantic such as cod, hake, haddock and flounder, have declined by 95% within the last 10 years.  In some areas of Europe, restaurants have begun replacing cod in their fish ‘n’ chip recipes with Porbeagle shark meat (4.)

Sharks fins are hunted for commercial value as well. It is estimated that 73 million sharks are captured each year for the Asian delicacy shark fin soup. The hammerhead shark population has declined by 98% in some areas as a result. The whitetip shark population has been reduced by 99% in the Gulf of Mexico. One kilogram of the fins can sell for $85 (6.)

How can you make a difference?

We can all make a difference by purchasing fish that are Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) approved. The MSC certifies wild fish that are caught by fisheries that obey national and international laws, catch fish in a sustainable way, and have a minimum impact on the environment (7.)

We can decrease the demand for shark fins by refraining from eating shark fin soup. We can also write letters to local restaurants and markets that sell shark fin soup or shark fins with a request that they refrain from selling those items.

1.)   Vaughn, Jacqueline. Environmental Politics: Domestic and Global Dimensions. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2011. Print.

2.)   "Overfishing." About.com Marine Life. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. <http://marinelife.about.com/od/glossary/g/overfishingdef.htm>.

3.)   "Overfishing Could Take Seafood Off the Menu by 2048: Scientific American." Science News, Articles and Information. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. <http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=overfishing-could-take-se>.

4.)   "Overfishing: A Threat to Marine Biodiversity." UN News Center. UN. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. <http://www.un.org/events/tenstories/06/story.asp?storyID=800>.

5.)   "Fishing Methods." | Monterey Bay Aquarium. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. <http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/sfw_gear.aspx>.

6.)   "Saving Sharks and Tuna." National Geographic. News Watch. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. <http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2010/03/12/saving_sharks_and_tuna/?q=/2010/03/saving-sharks-and-tuna.html>.

7.)   "MSC Environmental Standard for Sustainable Fishing." รข€” MSC. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. <http://www.msc.org/about-us/standards/standards/msc-environmental-standard>.

Overfishing, a Global Issue

The United Nations estimates that fishing is central to the livelihood and food security of more than 200 million people, especially in the developing world. The rapid growth in demand for fish and fish products is leading to fish prices increasing faster than prices of meat making fisheries investments more attractive to both entrepreneurs and governments, to the detriment of small-scale fishing and fishing communities all over the world. In trying to address a variety of issues involving international maritime conventions the UN developed the Convention on the Law of the Sea.
On the 13th of March 2012, the United Nations legal chief reminded members of the importance of the global treaty governing the use of oceans and urged UN members who have not ratified it to do so this year, which marks the 30th anniversary of the opening for signature of the Convention on the Law of the Sea. This convention governs all aspects of ocean space, including delimitation of maritime boundaries, environmental regulations, scientific research, commerce and the settlement of international disputes involving marine issues.
The Convention on the Law of the Sea came into force on November 16, 1994 when Guyana became the 60th State to ratify it. One of the salient features of the Convention is the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that recognizes the right of coastal States to have jurisdiction and the right to exploit, develop, manage and conserve all resources in the waters, on the ocean floor and in the subsoil of an area extending 200 miles from shore. Under the Convention, all States have the right to navigation, over-flight, scientific research and fishing on the high seas, but they are obliged to cooperate with other States in adopting measures to manage living resources. This cooperation does not always actually occur.
Somali pirates prepare a skiff. Photograph: Mohamed Dahir/AFP/Getty Images
As was reported in the early 1990’s in Somalia and is now being reported in Senegal, illegal foreign fishing fleets still encroach within the 12-mile inshore limits and poach fish from the local communities. This negatively impacts the nations’ economy and the lives of local fisherman and their families who depend on these fish. The intruding boats have also been reported to destroy the property and tools of the local fishermen, hurting their ability to continue with their livelihood.  The lack of ability to enforce the Conventions on the Law of the Sea and the lack of universal agreement on these conventions is harming those who least can afford the loss of their fishing.
The United States, although strongly influencing the development of these conventions, is not a signatory State. Members of Congress view signing these conventions as impinging upon our sovereignty within our coastal waters. Should the US become a signatory on the Convention on the Laws of the Sea, we will be better able to regulate our own companies’ involvement in issues that lead to overfishing and poaching, as well as show our support of other countries in their struggles against those who violate this treaty every day.


Common Types of Overfishing

There are three commonly accepted types of overfishing.  These include recruitment overfishing, growth overfishing, and ecosystem overfishing. 

--Recruitment Overfishing: Depleting the older population of fish with overfishing which prevents proper reproduction.  The species can no longer replenish because there are not enough flourishing adult fish to replicate.  This is the most common form of overfishing.

--Growth Overfishing: Harvesting a fish population at a smaller size which does not allow for the producing of the maximum yield per recruit.  It can be prevented by reducing fish mortality rates and allowing for full growth.

--Ecosystem Overfishing: Diminishing a fish population by overfishing it, which in turn shifts the balance of an environment. This causes predators that can no longer rely on food sources of smaller fish, smaller fish populations increasing because of a decline in predators, etc.