Our oceans are facing multiple problems today. But one among them stands out because of its toll on not only marine life but the people as well. Fishing is among the biggest factors driving the population of ocean wildlife to decline. Fishing, however, is not something that harms the ocean inherently. However, too much of anything tends to be a problem.
Overfishing, as the word implies, is when fish is caught in too large of a quantity in a very short amount of time. As a result, the population required for breeding and replenishing the fish stock also gets depleted. Basically, so many fish are caught that the fish population fails to recover to reach the previous numbers.
This practice is often closely associated with commercial fishing which wastes a lot. Commercial fishing usually hauls massive amounts of fish and other animals in. Most of them are unwanted so they are sorted and thrown away. This is also known as “bycatch”. This is one of the more serious threats as well leading to enormous numbers of cetaceans and sea turtles losing their lives.
Overfishing has been going on for a long time in many parts of the world. Globally, overfished stocks have increased by three times in less than 50 years. So much so that almost one-third of all the areas in the world that were thought to be fisheries are now facing immense trouble. Moreover, many fisheries have escaped scientific attention so this estimate is most possibly an underestimation.
The Dangerous Impact Of Overfishing
You may ask what the problem is with this practice. Well, overfishing is pushing ecosystems in the ocean towards destruction. As a result, billions who depend on seafood as the main source of protein are also being endangered. If fishing is not managed sustainably, our fisheries will collapse. The more major crisis is that it will be the beginning of a crisis regarding food.
The fish population of the Black Sea has dwindled due to overfishing. Moreover, commercial fishing continues to cause even more damage to the environment. As a result, many European lawmakers and NGOs are trying to save the water body.
The stocks of Mackerel are now classified as critically endangered in the European waterbody. Not just that, all species of herring and sturgeon have also fallen into the threatened category. Not just fish, other kinds of animals have been affected as well. The monk seal can no longer be found. The dolphin commonly seen has also been labeled as a vulnerable species.
WWF co-operated with the Bulgarian Science Academy (BAN) to publish a report stating the number. In the Parliament of Europe, Ivo Hristov, an MEP of Bulgaria, has also recently given a warning regarding the Black Sea overfishing. Almost all species are facing a risk, apart from the sprat.
Dr. Radoslava Bekova, one of the experts authoring the study, said that the water body is approaching a “red line” due to overfishing. On crossing this, the degradation of the ecosystem will become irreversible. She explained that fishing related to industries is having the most impact. This is due to industrial fishing destroying an immense proportion of particular species populations.
The data clearly indicates that over half of the seafloor below 100 meters has suffered significant abrasion because of illegal sea species harvesting. Presently, the Black Sea is facing a worse situation than the Mediterranean.
Apart from such enclosed ecosystems, key coral reef habitats are also being damaged because of overfishing. Unsustainable fishing in areas of coral reefs can lead to important reef species being depleted. As a consequence, not just the ecosystem but also the economy in the area. Several island and coastal communities rely on fisheries in coral reefs for their culture, social, and economic benefits.
Habitats near the shore are also fish nurseries. As such, young fish gets caught because of overfishing which prevents them from getting a chance to refill the population. Marine debris such as lost nets and lines can permanently damage coral reefs.
Fisheries in coral reefs are usually small in size. However, their environmental impact is disproportionately large when they are unsustainable.
Is There Anything Being Done?
This practice is usually caused by poor management of the fish population and practices. Internationally, the rules that govern many fisheries worsen the problem. In some places, there is no rule to manage the fishing.
However, there is still hope. One of the methods that are being tested with some success is fishing rights. With these rights, the incentive behind overfishing can be decreased or even removed. With fishing rights, the interests of fishermen depend on how healthy a fishery remains over the long term. As such, the larger the fish population is, the more they will earn.
Some countries that have already shown this to be a success are the US, Namibia, Denmark, and Belize. Fisheries that were struggling earlier saw a change in their fates after fishing rights. The population of red snappers in the Gulf of Mexico has tripled since 2007 after the fishery was reformed using fishing rights.
For the Black Sea, aquaculture production has been given more incentive. There is also a suggestion for fishermen who operate on a smaller scale. They have significantly less impact compared to industrial fishing. Certain fish species are completely banned from being fished in the area, such as the turbot.
There are organizations that have made it their mission to deal with the problem before it is too late. This includes The Echo Foundation and the Environmental Defense Fund. If you want to do your part, you can try helping them out. Of course, the first step would be to know about your local fishery.