The answer is becoming clear as over fishing is becoming a real and serious problem. What was once thought of as an everlasting resource is becoming depleted.
Overfishing is the consequence of catching to many fish in to short of time. The fish population essentially can not keep up with the extreme numbers that are being removed each year. There is not enough time for the populations to replenish themselves. 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%, prompting calls for urgent measures (Overfishing: a threat to marine biodiversity. (n.d.). According to a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate, over 70% of the world’s fish species are either fully exploited or depleted (Overfishing: a threat to marine biodiversity. (n.d.). These numbers have to be less than what they are in order it maintain sustainable fishing.
Other than the obvious risk to the fish and their population’s, fisheries leave behind disaster in our waters. There are three types of nets that are used to catch fish in open water purse nets; known for killing and injuring marine wildlife; trawler nets; that cause destruction to the ocean floor and non-target species. The one that I find the most concerning is the drift net. The drift net is like a wall of death to whatever touches it. Sea turtles, sea birds, sharks, dolphins, whales, and seals are just a few of the non-target species that are caught and killed in drift nets.
These nets are also left behind in the water. When these nets are left in the water they continue to cause constant harm to the marine life in the water. The nets that are left behind are often referred to as ghost nets. It’s estimated that 1,000 km of ghost net is left in the ocean for every driftnet fleet (Mallam, Peter, n.d.). If this continues, by the year 2000 there will be enough ghost net in the ocean to stretch 1/3 of the way around the earth (Mallam, Peter, n.d.). It is now 2007 as we all know. All of these nets are still being used and left behind.
Another great concern of commercial fishing is by-catch. By-catch is the remains of fish and other marine life that is not being targeted but is caught in the fisherman’s nets. By-catch is thrown back into the ocean, often times dead or near death due to being crushed in the nets or from being out of the water to long (Visualizing Environmental Science, The Ocean and Fisheries). In 1989, one driftnet fleet out after squid in the Mediterranean caught 58 blue sharks, 914 dolphins, 52 fur seals, 35 puffins and 22 marine turtles alone (Mallam, Peter, n.d.). It is estimated that 3,000 to10, 000 dolphins are caught each year along with over 80 other different kinds of species of marine life (Mallam, Peter, n.d.). Even with advances in technology by-catch continues to remain a problem.
A solution to some of these problems has been fish farms. Fish farms are place where fish are raised in tanks or other enclosures as an alternative to commercial fishing. This is not really a solution in my opinion. Fish farms need wild fish to feed the farmed fish. It can take up to 3 tons of wild-caught fish to raise 1 ton of farmed salmon (Mallam, Peter, n.d.). This places more open water fish at risk. In my opinion it seems as if fish farms are defeating there purpose.
These problems are also accompanied by pollution, other supplies left in the water, and habitat depletion of animals other than marine life. Fish are also a major food supply. Overfishing poses a threat to millions of people’s food supply as well.
What about the fisherman? Fishing is a lucrative business for many people in the United States and other countries. Fishing provides an income for families and communities. The problem is not that people make a living on fishing. The problem is that our waters are being overfished. We need an ideal plan that will enable no loss of jobs, income, and un-necessary life. However, this will be quite difficult. It will require the cooperation from both sides of the argument. The fisheries as well as the environmentalist and others will have to come to a respectable agreement.
With education, communication, and research I feel several things can be accomplished. These things will protect the wildlife as well as the fishermen. It will not happen over night but this is not an impossible task. With a little hard work and dedication to both sides solutions can be reached, but also be obtainable. Can there be plenty of fish in the sea?
Campbell, David (September 12, 2007) Sustainable Fisheries. Retrieved November 17, 2007 from http://www.marinebio.org
Jeantheau, Mark (May 7, 2005) The Causes and Effects of Overfishing. Retrieved November 17, 2007 from http://www.grinningplanet.com/2005/06-07/overfishing-article.htm
Mallam, Peter (n.d.) Driftnets create walls of death for sea creatures. Retrieved November 17, 2007 from http://www.snnrdr.ca/old/nov98/nov98/driftnets.html
United Nations Environmental Programme (n.d.) Overfishing: a threat to marine biodiversity. Retrieved November 17, 2007 from http://www.un.org/events/tenstories_2006/story.asp?storyID=800
Vegan Society (2003) Suffering Seas: Overfishing. Retrieved November 17, 2007 from http://www.vegansociety.com/html/environment/water/seas.php
Visualizing Environmental Sciences (n.d.) The Oceans and Fisheries (ch. 11 pg. 276) Retrieved November 17, 2007 from Sci275 week 6 course syllabus. Axia College at University of Phoeinx.