overfishing

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The Atlantic bluefin tuna is one of the largest, fastest, and most gorgeously colored of all the world’s fishes. The average size is a whopping 6.5 feet (2 meters) in length and 550 pounds (250 kilograms), although much larger specimens are not uncommon.

Unfortunately for the species however, bluefin meat also happens to be regarded as surpassingly delicious, particularly among sashimi eaters, and overfishing throughout their range has driven their numbers to critically low levels.

Just three days after a single Pacific bluefin tuna fetched a jaw-dropping $1.76 million at a fish auction in Tokyo, Japan, scientists released a new stock assessment for this species—and the findings are shocking. According to the report, the Pacific bluefin population has dropped 96.4 percent from unfished levels due to decades of overfishing. 90% of the population left are caught before they can reproduce.

Sea Turtle Hatchling Heading to Monterey

Can sea turtles fly? Well, a young loggerhead sea turtle similar to the one pictured here will be airborne tomorrow, en route from North Carolina to an exhibit in our Open Sea galleries.

It’s flying coach to Monterey with Curator Steve Vogel. You can follow their progress on Wednesday using the Twitter hashtag #TravelingTurtle.

At the earliest, it could be on exhibit Thursday morning, depending on the outcome of its veterinary exam. (We’ll keep you posted.)

The turtle is one of nine hatchlings rescued earlier this year by our colleagues with the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. These turtles didn’t make it back to sea with their nest-mates, and were hand-raised at the aquarium.

All nine are being loaned out to aquariums around the country, where they’ll live for up to two years before they’re returned to North Carolina, tagged and released to the wild.

Our youngster is just over 4 inches long and weighs less than half a pound. By the time it leaves Monterey, it could be more than a foot long and weigh up to 15 pounds.

We won’t know if it’s a boy or a girl, though. Even experts can’t tell a sea turtle’s gender until it’s around 10 years old.

Look for tomorrow’s updates at #TravelingTurtle, then come check the little guy out for yourself. It will be on the second floor of the Open Sea, near the puffins and other seabirds, in an exhibit that highlights the threats facing sea turtles and other animals from unsustainable fishing practices.

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Overfishing occurs when more fish are caught than the population can replace through natural reproduction. Gathering as many fish as possible may seem like a profitable practice, but overfishing has serious consequences. The results not only affect the balance of life in the oceans, but also the social and economic well-being of the coastal communities who depend on fish for their way of life.

Billions of people rely on fish for protein, and fishing is the principal livelihood for millions of people around the world. For centuries, our seas and oceans have been considered a limitless bounty of food. However, increasing fishing efforts over the last 50 years as well as unsustainable fishing practices are pushing many fish stocks to the point of collapse.

More than 85 percent of the world’s fisheries have been pushed to or beyond their biological limits and are in need of strict management plans to restore them. Several important commercial fish populations (such as Atlantic bluefin tuna) have declined to the point where their survival as a species is threatened. Target fishing of top predators, such as tuna and groupers, is changing marine communities, which lead to an abundance of smaller marine species, such as sardines and anchovies.

Many fishers are aware of the need to safeguard fish populations and the marine environment, however illegal fishing and other regulatory problems still exist. WWF works with stakeholders to reform fisheries management globally, focusing on sustainable practices that conserve ecosystems, but also sustain livelihoods and ensure food security.

CAUSES

OPEN ACCESS FISHERIES

A main problem of overfishing is the “open access” nature of fisheries. Because there are no or few property rights there is a lack of incentive for fishermen to leave fish in the water.

POOR FISHERIES MANAGEMENT

A lack of management oversight, government regulations, and traceability of fishing activities has long been a problem in the fishing industry. Current rules and regulations are not strong enough to limit fishing capacity to a sustainable level. This is particularly the case for the high seas, where there are few international fishing regulations, and those that exist are not always implemented or enforced. Many fisheries management bodies are not able to adequately incorporate scientific advice on fish quotas, and customs agencies and retailers cannot always ensure that the fish entering their country is caught legally and in a sustainable way.

ILLEGAL FISHING

One key dimension of the overfishing crisis is illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing. It occurs across all types of fisheries, within national and international waters, and small scale to large industrialized operations. Illegal fishing accounts for an estimated 20% of the world’s catch and as much as 50% in some fisheries. The costs of illegal fishing are significant, with the value of pirate fish products estimated at between $10-23.5 billion annually.

SUBSIDIES

Many governments still continue to subsidize their fleets, allowing unprofitable operations to subsist, and overfishing to occur. Today’s worldwide fishing fleet is estimated to be up to two and a half times the capacity needed to catch what we actually need.

info and photos from WWF

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OVERFISHING-

Many marine ecologists think that the biggest single threat to marine ecosystems today is overfishing. Our appetite for fish is exceeding the oceans’ ecological limits with devastating impacts on marine ecosystems. Scientists are warning that overfishing results in profound changes in our oceans, perhaps changing them forever. Not to mention our dinner plates, which in future may only feature fish and chips as a rare and expensive delicacy.

The fish don’t stand a chance

More often than not, the fishing industry is given access to fish stocks before the impact of their fishing can be assessed, and regulation of the fishing industry is, in any case, woefully inadequate.

The reality of modern fishing is that the industry is dominated by fishing vessels that far out-match nature’s ability to replenish fish. Giant ships using state-of-the-art fish-finding sonar can pinpoint schools of fish quickly and accurately. The ships are fitted out like giant floating factories - containing fish processing and packing plants, huge freezing systems, and powerful engines to drag enormous fishing gear through the ocean. Put simply: the fish don’t stand a chance.

Ocean life health check

Populations of top predators, a key indicator of ecosystem health, are disappearing at a frightening rate, and 90 percent of the large fish that many of us love to eat, such as tuna, swordfish, marlin, cod, halibut, skate, and flounder - have been fished out since large scale industrial fishing began in the 1950s. The depletion of these top predator species can cause a shift in entire oceans ecosystems where commercially valuable fish are replaced by smaller, plankton-feeding fish. This century may even see bumper crops of jellyfish replacing the fish consumed by humans.

These changes endanger the structure and functioning of marine ecosystems, and hence threaten the livelihoods of  those dependent on the oceans, both now and in the future.

Fisheries collapse

The over-exploitation and mismanagement of fisheries has already led to some spectacular fisheries collapses. The cod fishery off Newfoundland, Canada collapsed in 1992, leading to the loss of some 40,000 jobs in the industry. The cod stocks in the North Sea and Baltic Sea are now heading the same way and are close to complete collapse.

Instead of trying to find a long-term solution to these problems, the fishing industry’s eyes are turning towards the Pacific - but this is not the answer. Politicians continue to ignore the advice of scientists about how these fisheries should be managed and the need to fish these threatened species in a sustainable way.

(via Greenpeace)

Help save our oceans by being smart about what types of fish you eat and how often you consume them. Here is a great pocket guide that informs people what fish are sustainably fished and which to avoid. Just print it out, put it in your wallet and you’re good to go! I also recommend watching End of The Line.  It’s a great documentary that portrays and discusses this issue very clearly. REMEMBER EVERY SMALL CHANGE MADE TO HELP THE PLANET COUNTS! 

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HOW WHALES CHANGE CLIMATE

by Sustainable Human (4:51 min)

When whales were at their historic populations, before their numbers were reduced, it seems that whales might have been responsible for removing tens of millions of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere every year. Whales change the climate. The return of the great whales, if they are allowed to recover, could be seen as a benign form of geo-engineering. It could undo some of the damage we have done, both to the living systems of the sea, and to the atmosphere.

Haida Nation win injunction against commercial fishery on Haida Gwaii

A federal court has ruled that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans cannot open a fishery in Haida Gwaii this year.

An injunction was given to the Haida Nation, against the federal government, to prevent the re-opening of a commercial herring fishery on the nation’s north coast.

“This win is another step to building herring stocks, and in doing so, contributes to an economy that will provide a reasonable living for our people, and the path of reconciliation with Canada,” said Haida Nation President Peter Lantin in a statement.

Continue Reading.

Hey guys, I want to talk to you about a really important movie called Revolution.

Many of you have seen movie Sharkwater, a film about shark finning and conservation. Revolution was made by Rob Stewart, the same man who made Sharkwater. This movie focuses on climate change, environmental destruction, and how humanity needs to take action if we are to save the planet we live on and ultimately save ourselves. It’s a great film and I encourage everyone to watch and share it with people you know!

Rent it here for $3.99.

Learn about our planet’s greatest threats.

How you can help save our world and our lives.

Here is a documentary I think everyone should watch. THE END OF THE LINE  is a documentary that focuses on fisheries and the effects of overfishing. There is a huge segment on bluefin tuna fishery and how soon enough there will not be any left. It also talks about aquaculture, shark finning and other fisheries in danger.

WATCH THIS DOCUMENTARY

FUN FACT: Mitsubishi is the largest buyer of bluefin tuna, and this documentary eludes to the idea that they are freezing all the tuna they get so that when there is no more left they will have a monopoly on the bluefin tuna trade. $$$$$$$$ 

CHECK IT OUT!

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Overfishing Remains Biggest Threat to Mediterranean, Study Confirms

Posted by David Braun of National Geographic in Ocean Views on April 19, 2014        Overfishing is still the most important threat to Mediterranean underwater ecosystems, “more than pollution, invasive species, or climate change”, says Enric Sala, one of the authors of the most comprehensive study made of the sea, published this week in the science journal PLoS ONE. The assessment, presented in a paper entitled Large-Scale Assessment of Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas Effects on Fish Assemblages, drew on the work of a dozen researchers. A marine ecologist and a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, Sala is actively engaged in exploration, research and communications to advance ocean policy and conservation. “Without these radical changes, we’re just going to reduce the Mediterranean Sea to a soup of microbes and jellyfish.”        In an interview for Ocean Views, Sala said the new study confirms the prognosis that the Mediterranean is on a trajectory to become a sea dominated by small tropical species that no one likes to eat. “Fishes will not be abundant, and the native species that the Greeks and Romans started to fish commercially will be rare — and most fisheries and the jobs they support will collapse,” he predicted. But this could change “if we stop all the irrational overfishing, including both legal and illegal fishing, and protect a large chunk of the Mediterranean,” Sala added. “Without these radical changes, we’re just going to reduce the Mediterranean Sea to a soup of microbes and jellyfish.”        The solution is to create more marine sanctuaries that successfully prevent fishing, Sala said. “Paper Parks”, or sanctuaries that exist in name only, are a futile effort, he added. This newest research reinforces a study published in PLoS ONE in February, 2012, in which Sala and others reported that the healthiest places in the Mediterranean were in well-enforced marine reserves. “Fish biomass there had recovered from overfishing to levels five to 10 times greater than that of fished areas. However, marine ‘protected’ areas where some types of fishing are allowed did not do better than sites that were completely unprotected. This suggests that full recovery of Mediterranean marine life requires fully protected reserves,” said a National Geographic news release about that study. (Overfishing Leaves Much of Mediterranean a Dead Sea, Study Finds)  read more from Nat Geo

I was shocked by what I saw in the seas, and by what I didn’t see.

I saw no sharks, no whales, no dolphins. I saw no fish longer than 11 inches. The larger ones had all been fished out.

When I swam in the Aegean, the sea floor was covered with litter; I saw tires and plastic bags, bottles, cans, shoes and clothing.

—  “Swimming Through Garbage” - NYTimes op-ed by lawyer and world-class competitive swimmer, Lewis Pugh.
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The End of the Line is a powerful film about one of the world’s most disturbing problems - over-fishing. Advances in fishing technology mean whole species of wild fish are under threat and the most important stocks we eat are predicted to be in a state of collapse by 2050. The film points the finger at those most to blame, including celebrity chefs, and shows what we can do about it. This is not just a film, it is also a campaign - for sustainable consumption of fish, for marine protected areas to allow the sea to recover, and for a new ethic of responsible fishing.

Billfish Conservation: Tag & Release Research

(Source: The Billfish Foundation)

  • What are Billfish?

The term Billfish refers to a group of pelagic, highly migratory, predatory fish that are characterized by prominent bills, or rostra, and by their large size.

Billfish include sailfish, marlins, and swordfish. They are apex predators and feeds on a wide variety of small fish, crustaceans and cephalopods.  They are found in all oceans, but mostly in tropical and subtropical waters. 

They use their long sword-like nostrum to slash at and stun prey during feeding.  Swordfish and billfish are built for speed with their long bills cutting through the water and their aerodynamic bodies allowing them to reach speeds of up to 120 kph! They are among the fastest fish in the ocean.

  • Why Are They Threatened?

According to a 2011 global assessment by the IUCN ( which is responsible for the Red List of Threatened Species), blue marlins, white marlins and striped marlins are threatened, and the key to recovery is reducing commercial fishing pressure.

Overfishing is the main threat to billfish. The most frequent method used to catch these fish is longline fishing. Longline fishing consists of a long line with baited hooks that are attached at intervals by means of shorter, branch lines (snoods). Longlines are placed in the water column. Hundreds or even thousands of baited hooks can hang from a single line. Longline fishing poses a significant threat not only to billfish but also to other endangered species such a marine turtles, sharks, and dolphins.

(Source: The AUM Blog)

A significant number of swordfish are also caught by illegal driftnet fisheries in the Mediterranean. Labelled “walls of death”, driftnets are also indiscriminate, catching any animal that crosses their path. Yet again, it is crucial that consumers find alternatives to billfish and promote sustainable fishing.

Additionally, billfish are among the most coveted of big gamefish for recreational fishermen. Nevertheless, billfish anglers are a small constituency compared with the other angler groups or anglers overall. 

  • Community-Driven Conservation: Why Tagging Billfish is Important

Very well aware of the threatened status of their favorite fish, the vast majority of sport fishermen now work along conservationists to gather biological and ecological information, and to  implement tag and release programs. The Billfish Foundation (TBF) is a leader in the tag-and-release research. Their program was established back in 1990, and it is now the largest private billfish tagging database in the world! With more than 200,000 tag and release reports, TBF receives over 15,000 tag and release records annually from across the globe.

Such success is due to the willingness of anglers and captains worldwide to voluntarily tag, release, and report their billfish catches. These tags give us crucial information on migratory patterns, habitat utilization, growth rates and post-release survival rates. 

(Striped marlin equipped with a satellite popup tag. Photo source: Marine CSI)

  • What About the Fish? Isn’t it Stressful for them?

Unfortunately, stress is unavoidable for any kind of tag-and-release program, and the process of catching billfish can leave them too traumatized to recover. To make sure catch-and-release fishing remains a viable conservation strategy, proper fish handling is crucial. It is highly discouraged to bring the fish out of the water, and to tag and release the animal as quickly and safely as possible.

(Sailfish in the open ocean. Photo by Tony Ludovico)

Furthermore, scientists are constantly working on finding less invasive and stressful methods. Studies have shown that circle fishing hooks do much less damage to billfish than the traditional J-hooks, yet they are just as effective for catching billfish, are easier to remove, and  they improve survival rates post-release. Additionally, the Billfish Foundation has published guides on how to tag an individual properly. 

It is also important to recognize that sport fishing around these animals is of great social and economic impact in many coastal states and countries around the Caribbean. Anglers contribute to $599 million annually in the country of Costa Rica, and up to  $1.125 billion annually for the small town of Los Cabos in Mexico, on top of creating thousands of jobs!! Such an economic impact for the smaller communities and countries is crucial and is not negligible.

(Photo by Tony Ludovico)

Since sports fishing is quite a popular activity around the globe, conservationists have taken the smart approach of partnering with fishermen to advance billfish research. Many anglers have great work ethics and comply with the safe fish handling and tagging methods. Due to such successful community participation, billfish research and conservation is advancing daily.

While I am personally not the biggest fan of sports fishing, I do appreciate the partnership between conservation organizations and sport fishermen, and recognize the value of the scientific data collected that can later be used to create adequate policies. We would not get even half of that data if it weren’t for such great participation from the anglers.

Here is a cool video on how tagging a billfish is done, and here is a fun little video featuring some members of The Billfish Foundation on a  tag-and-release trip in Guatemala.

(Photo by Tony Ludovico)

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Green sea turtle

The green turtle is one of the largest sea turtles and the only herbivore among the different species. Green turtles are in fact named for the greenish color of their cartilage and fat, not their shells. In the Eastern Pacific, a group of green turtles that have darker shells are called black turtles by the local community. Green turtles are found mainly in tropical and subtropical waters. Like other sea turtles, they migrate long distances between feeding grounds and the beaches from where they hatched. Classified as endangered, green turtles are threatened by overharvesting of their eggs, hunting of adults, being caught in fishing gear and loss of nesting beach sites.

Why they matter

 Green turtles graze on seagrasses and algae, which maintains the seagrass beds and makes them more productive (much like mowing the lawn to keep it healthy). Seagrass consumed by green turtles is quickly digested and becomes available as recycled nutrients to the many species of plants and animals that live in the sea grass ecosystem. Seagrass beds also function as nurseries for several species of invertebrates and fish, many of which are of considerable value to commercial fisheries and therefore important to human food security.

 

Threats 

FISHERIES BYCATCH

Worldwide, hundreds of thousands of sea turtles a year are accidentally caught in shrimp trawl nets, on longline hooks and in fishing gillnets. Sea turtles need to reach the surface to breathe, and therefore many drown once caught. Known as bycatch, it is a serious hazard for green turtles. As fishing activity expands, this threat is more of a problem.

HABITAT LOSS

Green Turtle Sea turtles are dependent on beaches for nesting. Uncontrolled coastal development, vehicle traffic on beaches, and other human activities have directly destroyed or disturbed marine turtle nesting beaches around the world. Green turtle feeding grounds such as seagrass beds are also at risk from coastal development onshore, which leads to pollution and sedimentation in the nearby waters.

 

OVERHARVESTING AND ILLEGAL TRADE

Worldwide, the green turtle continues to be hunted and its eggs harvested. Much of that is for human consumption, but trade of turtle parts remains a profitable business. Tens of thousands of green turtles are harvested every year, particularly in parts of Asia and the Western Pacific. Along the Eastern Pacific coast of Mexico, despite complete protection, green turtles are still at risk from exploitation. In West Africa, sea turtles are killed for use in medicine and some traditional ceremonies.

learn more about how you can help and what organizations like WWF do to help!