A Deeper Look Into Overfishing
Have you ever seen the sight of a beautiful fish while scuba diving, snorkeling, whale watching or any other way? Well, if you haven’t and want to see it or want to see the sight again, then please help to make a change and put an end to overfishing.
Alarming rates of fishing have always been a problem since fisheries were a thing. Fisheries are the companies catching all of the fish. Over the past several years though, fishing at alarming rates has become a much more serious problem then before. This problem is called overfishing. We have taken fishing to a much more disastrous level with new and dangerous methods of catching fish.
I am an eleven year old boy in 6th grade at the Pegasus School, and for the past 3 months I have been researching the topic of overfishing. Due to bycatch, illegal fishing, and overexploited fisheries, fish are dying at an alarming rate, so we need to create and enforce more laws to stop overfishing.
Overfishing is hurting the food webs, coastal communities, the environment, and more. If the problem is not fixed fast then many people will suffer and so will all of the ocean.
The worst part is, we are starting to fish more than ever before!
Overfishing also has many long-term effects. A study by WWF shows there will be no more seafood left in the ocean by the year 2048. In addition, according to a Greentumble article titled “Long-Term Effects of Overfishing”, overfishing has many other long-term effects such as:
- loss of livelihoods for fishermen
- reduction in the social, health, and economic well being
- impacts the health of oceans and their food webs
- reduction in marine biodiversity
- fish becoming more vulnerable
The evidence stated by WWF shows if we lose all fish, then life could cease to exist because fish are the organisms storing carbon dioxide deep in the ocean and serve as food for many people.
We are pushing most fish towards extinction, and we have let many ocean species go extinct. As for the second piece of evidence, all of the long terms effects of overfishing are extremely threatening to our environment and economy.
According to a WWF article titled “Overfishing of Bluefin Tuna”, the bluefin tuna’s population has gone down by 96 percent and 85 percent of all fish stocks are at risk.
The worst part is, instead of stopping to fish this species, we started to fish bluefin tuna even more because of their very high prices. This way of doing the opposite of what we should do has to end or else we will lose many important species such as the bluefin tuna.
Also, note that 85 percent is a ginormous amount, and the fact that those many fish stocks are at risk is saddening. We will lose almost all fish in the near future if we continue on this destructive path of killing fish. This is an alarming thought because we are losing all fish far before we should. Plus, a world without fish is almost impossible to live in.
If the problems pertaining to overfishing are not addressed, this could lead to extinction of all fish and a dangerously altered environment.
Two Of The Major Causes Of Overfishing Are Bycatch And Illegal Fishing
Bycatch is the accidental catching of fish. For example, if you are trying to catch tuna but you get a sea turtle, the sea turtle is known as bycatch. Illegal fishing is when fishermen fish in spots they aren’t supposed to or catch fish that are off limits. Bycatch is a dangerous problem threatening many species of fish.
This statistic is alarming because this problem is killing many sensitive marine habitats and bringing the fish of those habitats close to extinction. One of the main issues with bycatch is that we are losing so many animals to just one problem, and the worst part is, those animals are 100 percent wasted.
According to a FishNavy article titled “20-lbs-of-Bycatch Per Pound of Shrimp”, for about every pound of shrimp that is caught, 5 to 20 pounds of bycatch is discarded. Out of all the species killed from bycatch, shrimp is affected the most. More shrimp is discarded from bycatch then actually consumed for food or other purposes.
According to a WWF article titled “Illegal Fishing”, illegal fishing is costing 36.4 billion dollars globally and since it is so hard to regulate, it is very hard to stop. This is a lot of money to be losing just because we are too lazy to make new laws or add security to the waters. Plus, when people fish illegally, there is nothing stopping them from killing or fishing animals that are close to extinction.
If we don’t make more laws or add security we could lose many species to the problem of Illegal fishing. A major part of illegal fishing is something called ghost fishing. Ghost fishing is when fishermen (usually illegal fishermen) leave unwanted nets in the ocean. These unwanted nets catch fish and suffocate them because they can’t breath.
The animals end up dying for no reason, almost like the problem of bycatch. According to a Thedodo article titled “Ocean Animals Dying in Lost Fishing Gear”, 1,280,000,000 pounds of fishing gear are left in the ocean each year, and about 650,000 animals die from ghost fishing each year. The amount of fishing gear that we leave in the ocean itself is destroying the environment, wasting resources, and killing many fish for no reason.
The thing is, if everyone stopped illegally fishing then these numbers would greatly decrease, but for some reason we aren’t changing our ways of doing things. Attention to these problems is mandatory unless we want to lose all fish, and possibly life as we know it.
Overexploited Fisheries and Destructive Fishing Practices
Two more very major causes of overfishing are overexploited fisheries and destructive fishing practices.
An overexploited fishery is a fishery that has gone beyond its capacity or limit of how many fish it can catch. A destructive fishing practice is a method of catching fish that harms the environment, habitats, and the fish.
According to a Greentumble article titled “Destructive Fishing Practices”, there are numerous destructive fishing practices such as:
- blast fishing
- gill netting
One of the worst of these practices is trawling. Trawling is when fishermen drop a giant metal cage to the sea bottom and drag it for about 5-15 miles. What this method does is it collects corals, fish, bycatch, and everything else that was in its path.
Of course, this is not the only dangerous method, there are several more like blast fishing. Blast fishing is the method used in lakes mostly and fishermen plant explosives and blow up the area so all the dead fish float to the top.
According to Greentumble, these destructive fishing practices also include harmful chemicals that can kill more habitat and fish than wanted. There are better ways to catch fish then to pollute water and kill habitats.
We have to watch out with what we are doing, if we don’t we’re going to lose a lot more than a few fish.
According to a Blogs article titled “Fao Reports 87 of the World’s Fisheries are Overexploited or Fully Exploited”, 87 percent of all fisheries are either fully or over exploited. If we continue to overexploit even more fisheries, it could lead to the destruction or extinction of certain species of fish. It would be best not to overexploit any more fisheries since we are already at an alarming number.
According to a Greentumble article titled “The Consequences of Fishing Down the Food Web”, overexploited fisheries mainly focus on the top of the the food web. The problem with this is that once we lose too many fish at the top of the food web, the fish at the bottom will overpopulate the oceans.
Eventually their food will run out because there are so many of them, leading the animals at the bottom of the food web to also go extinct.
If we do not stop overexploited fisheries and destructive fishing practices, food webs all over the world will die and not be able to return.
There are several severe consequences to inaction of this problem such as:
- all fish going extinct
- loss of food and people
- loss of coral reefs
- loss of good species
The first and one of the most major consequences of inaction is all fish going extinct. According to a Greentumble article titled “What Would Happen if There Were No Fish in the Ocean”, if we continue at the rate of fishing we are at, 100 percent of all fish will be extinct in the coming centuries.
This is not good for many reasons, first many people will lose a main source of food, second, there will be no fish to store carbon dioxide deep in the ocean, third, many people and animals will die.
We can either save future generations or kill fish at non mandatory rates
Although we know so much information, we continue to kill the fish. According to a Ecomagazine article titled “Overfishing is a Huge Problem Here’s What you Need to Know.”, once all fish go extinct two major things will happen, the 3 billion+ people who rely on fish as a main source of protein will have a major change in their livelihoods, and the predators of the fish such as seabirds could face extinction.
Another consequence of inaction is that coral reefs will die off. According to a Greentumble article titled “The Effects of Overfishing on Coral Reefs”, once there are no more fish maintaining the reefs, and all of the destructive methods of fishing have done their toll on the reefs, then the reefs will erode and die.
This would be terrible for our environment, plus we would be losing very beautiful parts of the ocean. This can hurt the environment because, according the U.S. Geological Survey, coral reefs serve as natural barriers that protect adjacent shorelines from coastal hazards such as storms and waves. Losing these barriers could cause problem to coastal communities.
Last, we will lose so many great species like the vaquita and bluefin tuna.
The bluefin tuna is the most endangered species of tuna, and the vaquita is the most endangered ocean animal. According to a WWF article titled “Bluefin Tuna”, a single bluefin tuna has sold for over 1.75 million dollars.
The problem with this is that because of these high prices, fishermen forget about the environment and start to catch and kill a lot more than needed. This is the problem with the fishing industry, the second we see a high price, we forget about the environment and consequences, all we care about is the money.
If these consequence are not addressed to fishermen and the fishing industry, then we are going to lose all fish really quickly, and all of these terrible consequences will become a terrible reality.
Now that the causes and consequences of overfishing have been addressed, it is time to address the solutions that could save us if we start using them now.
According to a Greentumble article titled “Sustainable Fishing Practices”, one of the best ways to decrease the amounts of bycatch and overexploited fisheries are sustainable fishing practices.
Some examples of sustainable fishing practices are:
- hook and lining
- targeting plentiful species
As bad as harpooning sounds, it helps to kill bigger fish a lot faster with minimum bycatch. If we target more plentiful species then we can afford to lose more animals and earn more fish for more resources.
According to a Greentumble article titled “Long Term Effects of Overfishing”, another major, impactful, and probably easiest way to put an end to overexploited fisheries is to implement more quotas and create more laws on how many fish can be caught.
An example of a law could be a fishery is only allowed to catch 100 tuna or else they’ll be shut down. The more harsh and forceful a law is, the more likely people will be to listen to it.
The more laws and quotas we make the better because then there will be more rules restricting fisheries from ruining our oceans and not listening.
According to a Greentumble article titled “Long Term Effects of Overfishing”, laws that we have already made are not being enforced to their maximum. This lets fisheries or illegal fishermen get around with doing wrong things such as catch more fish than what there supposed to, a lot easier.
It is not that hard to enforce laws that we have already made, to stop these people from killing our environment, fish, and future. According to a WWF article titled “Illegal Fishing”, we also must increase and get better security to catch and put an end to illegal fishing.
Right now, we have very little security in the oceans to be able to catch illegal fishermen, plus if police do catch illegal fishermen, the fishermen will bribe the police to let them go, and it actually works.
There are two steps that we must take to fix this problem.
First, we must pay a little extra money to get more police in the oceans, and second, we have two train the police not to take bribes.
According to a WWF article titled “Threats of Overfishing”, we must establish more marine protected areas because only 1.6 percent of the ocean are really protected. A marine protected area is a part of the ocean that no one can sail in or fish in. This is the number one way to put an end to overfishing. Though in order for this solution to truly work, more than one percent of the ocean has to be protected.
We can also protect a single individual fish. For example, we could fully protect the bluefin tuna by making it illegal to fish. So if we humans really want to save the fish and preserve a better future, then we will use these solutions and make these possibilities of saving fish in to realities.
Due to bycatch, illegal fishing, and overexploited fisheries, fish are dying at an alarming rate, so we need to create and enforce more laws to stop overfishing. Overfishing is a dangerous problem that is affecting our environment and lives.
There are many consequences of not trying to stop overfishing such as the destruction of the environment, loss of a food source, and more. Therefore if we do not act on this something disastrous will strike and it will already be too late to stop it. Of course we can still stop it as of right now, in fact, there are many solutions such as the ones listed.
All of the solutions that were listed are possible and very effective if we were to carry them out. Take the marine protected areas for example, if we protect more of our oceans then we are protecting more of the world’s fish as well.
One single person can change so much in our world. Take Thomas Edison for example, he changed the world greatly with one single invention.
Of course, you most likely will not be working alone. We must spread the word so more people know about the problem and can help to fight this major problem.
In short, if we handle this problem on not just a global level, but also on an individual level, then we can put an end to overfishing.
“Destructive Fishing Practices.” Greentumble, 16 Aug. 2015, greentumble.com/destructive-fishing-practices/. Accessed 27 Feb. 2019
FishNavy. Veronique Koch, 30 May 2013, fishnavy.com/image/20-lbs-of-bycatch-per-pound-of-shrimp/
Oceana. Stiles etal., May 2010, oceana.org/sites/default/files/reports/Trawling_BZ_10may10_toAudrey.pdf
Psmag. Erica Cirino, 30 Mar. 2018, psmag.com/environment/overfishing-krill-in-antarctica. Accessed 3 Mar. 2019
Supplychaindive. Rich Weissman, 16 July 2018, www.supplychaindive.com/news/fish-cod-UN-stock-report-overfishing-waste/527858/
Thedodo. ELIZABETH CLAIRE ALBERTS, 19 Mar. 2018, www.thedodo.com/in-the-wild/ocean-animals-dying-in-lost-fishing-gear
World Wildlife Fund. www.fishforward.eu/en/project/by-catch/
This is a guest post written by Dillan Shah.
Dillan is a 6th grade student with a passion to help make the world a better place. He was born in Bakersfield, California and now resides in Newport Beach, California. He first learned about the issue of overfishing while doing a 3 month project in his science class. He wants to spread the word about the harms of overfishing and hopes to inspire others to do the same.
Aside from environmental issues, Dillan has an interest in Medicine and plans to become a doctor when he grows up. Dillan loves to play tennis and piano and enjoys traveling the world with his family. Dillan will continue to try to educate people and help put an end to overfishing.