Seeking a Solution to the Destructive Impact of Overfishing
Fish, one of the most consumed sources of protein all around the world. Species like Tuna, grouper and cod are some of the most widely consumed fish. Due to our mass desire for the consumption of these fish they face a major problem called overfishing. Overfishing is when the rate of fishing mortality is higher than the fish’ ability to reproduce and grow.
Overfishing is very much a man-made problem. It is estimated that fish which are caught and killed in the wildlife is between 970 billion to 2.7 trillion every year (Rowland). This large number of catches and kills are done by bycatch which is the primary method used by the fishing industry and argued by many as a primary driver of the overfishing problem (Overfishing). Bycatch not only catches large number of targeted fish but also catches untargeted marine life like turtles, dolphins, sharks, whales and seals. According to scientists roughly 650,000 untargeted marine animals are killed due to bycatch all around the world yearly (Keledjian et al. 9). This problem is further compounded by subsidies from the government to the fishing industry. Subsidies worth up to 35 billion is provided to the industry. Out of the 35 billion dollars, 20 billion goes to promoting fishing practices but only 11 billion goes towards fishing practices that are sustainable. Subsidies reduces the cost of operation allows fisheries to continue fishing even though it adds little economic value.
The impact of overfishing is devastating to the environment and marine life. According to WWF, one-third of the world’s fisheries are pushed beyond their biological limits (Overfishing). The sharp decline in the breeding population caused by overfishing has been linked to frequent collapse of marine population. For example, the grouper fish. Grouper is a predator which plays an important role in the food chain. But in recent years some species of grouper have been overfished to the brink of extinction. It is estimated that about 20 species of grouper are at the risk of extinction, and 22 species are threatened. The collapse of the groper population leads to a domino effect that disrupts the entire food chain. Overfishing causes a disruption to the natural checks and balances that contributes to the frequent collapse of marine population (Sadovy, Yvonne, et al 122).
Don’t worry, it’s not all gloom and doom. Effects of overfishing can be overturned. One such step is for the government to craft policies that protect the overfished species. Policy like Magnuson-Stevens Act has brought positive changes in the fight against overfishing. After implementation of this Act there has been a drop in the number of overfished US fish stock from 98 species to 37 species and decreasing (Vox). A global effort can also be made by reducing the subsidies given to fishers that use unsustainable fishing practices which leads to overfishing. And use those surplus subsidies to promote the use of sustainable fishing practices. We as consumers can also make a difference by consuming fish that are caught by using sustainable methods (Overfishing). When buying fish, look for logos of Marine Stewardship Council which are only given to fish caught in a sustainable way. And lastly, we can donate to organizations like the WWF, EDF that fight against overfishing.
- Rowland, Michael P. ‘Two-Thirds of the World’s Seafood Is Over-Fished — Here’s How You Can Help.’ Forbes, 24 July 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelpellmanrowland/2017/07/24/seafood-sustainability-facts/#380580ab4bbf Accessed 8 Nov. 2019.
- “Overfishing” WWF, World Wildlife Fund https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/overfishing Accessed 7 Nov. 2019.
- Keledjian, Amanda, et al. “Wasted Catch: Unsolved Problems in U.S. Fisheries.” Oceana.org Mar.2014, https://oceana.org/sites/default/files/reports/Bycatch_Report_FINAL.pdf Accessed 11 Nov. 2019.
- Sadovy de Mitcheson, Yvonne, et al. “Fishing Groupers towards Extinction: A Globa Assessment of Threats and Extinction Risks in a Billion Dollar Fishery.” Fish & Fisheries, vol. 14, no. 2, June 2013, pp. 119–136. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/j.1467-2979.2011.00455.x. Acessed 15 Nov. 2019.
- Plumer, Brad, and Javier Zarracina. “Governments Pay Incredible Sums of Money Each Year to Encourage Overfishing.” Vox, Vox, 21 Mar. 2016, https://www.vox.com/2016/3/21/11275962/fishing-subsidies-overfishing Accessed 8 Nov. 2019
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