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>.

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