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.
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.
Global catches are falling three times faster than thought a new landmark study reveals in nature Communications, in a world ever more preoccupied with feeding the growing population in the face of the challenges of global warming and environmental destruction.
Killing Animals Is Killing the Planet. Here’s Why...
Believe it or not, many people who care about the environment still have no idea that raising animals for food is so incredibly destructive.
Consider some of these facts:
Animal agriculture uses a whopping 56 percent of water in the United States. In fact, just one hamburger requires 660 gallons of water to produce—the equivalent of 2 months’ worth of showers.
Because animals are so densely packed on today’s industrial farms, they produce more manure than can be absorbed by the land as fertilizer. The runoff from these facilities grossly contaminates rivers and ground water.
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)
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Here’s What You’re Missing When You Say “I Only Eat Fish”
Fish Are Smart and Feel Pain
Scientists around the world have demonstrated that fish not only feel pain but are aware of it and capable of suffering. Fish are even able to feel pleasure in ways similar to dogs, cats, and other animals.
Just last year, Vox.com detailed a multitude of fish abilities, including their abilities to “learn from each other, recognize other fish they’ve spent time with previously, know their place within fish social hierarchies, and remember complex spatial maps of their surroundings.”
We’re Fishing the Oceans Into Extinction
By and large, the fishing industry is one of the biggest threats to these intellectually complex and feeling creatures. It is also responsible for destruction of vital aquatic ecosystems and does irreversible damage to populations of all forms of ocean life.
A startling new report from the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London reveals that the number of fish and other aquatic animals dropped 49 percent between 1970 and 2012 primarily due to overfishing.
Fish Farming Is Cruel and Disgusting
With harrowing predictions that all the world’s fisheries will collapse by 2048, the rapidly decreasing population of wild fish is leading to an increase in fish farms where fish raised for food are forced to live in filthy, waste-filled enclosures just like chickens or pigs on factory farms.
According to a new piece by Bloomberg Business, “For the first time, the world is eating more fish from farms than from the open sea.”
In 2010, Mercy For Animals conducted an undercover investigation inside Catfish Corner, a fish slaughter facility. You can watch the investigation here.
Fish Is Loaded With Salmonella, Mercury, and Other Contaminants
Researchers have found that mercury levels in tuna are 10 million times higher than in seawater, with human activities since the Industrial Revolution to blame.
And some seafood imports are contaminated with salmonella and other microbes as a result of feeding fish a diet of feces. In fact, according to the FDA, seafood imports from China—around 27 percent of the seafood consumed by Americans—are frequently contaminated.
Fish Isn’t a Health Food
Somehow, the recommendation to “eat less meat” has translated into a message to “eat fish.” Touted for its omega-3 fats, fish is widely considered the “healthy” meat. But just like chicken and pork, fish and other seafood is loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol, and is completely devoid of fiber.
Fortunately, you don’t need to eat fish to obtain omega-3 fats. Instead, you can get them where the fish do—from plants.
Fish Aren’t the Only Ones Suffering Abuse
The Indonesian fishing industry is notorious for its blatant disregard for human and animal life. Tricked into slavery with the promise of good wages, countless men are forced to work long hours, often with very little food and unclean drinking water.
Earlier this year, the AP found that Burmese slaves might have caught some of the seafood sold at American grocery stores; the U.S. distributors receiving the seafood sell to Walmart, Kroger, Safeway, Albertson’s, and others.
– The best thing we can do to remove our support from the cruel fishing industry is to leave fish off our plates.
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.
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.
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!