Oceans and Fisheries

It’s hard to imagine, but even the seeming vastness of our oceans is under the same threat as the forests.

  1. Overfishing
  2. The Blue Fin Tuna
  3. Inefficient fishing with terrible collateral damage
  4. Are we being poisoned by micro-plastics in the ocean?
  5. Tree-huggers into fish-huggers? Get involved!

1. Overfishing

Fishing seems to have peaked as 75% of fisheries are on the verge of collapse. Fishing provides 14-16% of humanity’s animal protein, and over 1 billion people rely on it as their primary source of protein. But we risk permanently damaging fisheries when we over-fish. The wiki explains that the world’s fishing fleets are losing $50 billion each year, and that some fisheries are no longer viable, while some species have already gone extinct.

Overfishing can permanently tip ecosystems out of balance.

“Dramatic changes in species composition can result in an ecosystem shift, where other equilibrium energy flows involve species compositions different from those that had been present before the depletion of the original fish stock. For example, once trout have been overfished, carp might take over in a way that makes it impossible for the trout to re-establish a breeding population.”

As the new documentary “End of the Line” shows, most of the world’s fisheries are in decline. While there are simple solutions to the massive problem of overfishing, the movie doubts we have the willpower to institute them in time.

We are simply harvesting too many fish too fast.

2. The Blue Fin Tuna

For example, Blue fin tuna can grow for 30 or 40 years and weight a ton, but lately their average size has been decreasing. They are now in trouble (wiki).

From 1976 to 2006 worldwide stocks of Bluefin Tuna plummeted by 90%. Most seafood sustainability guides recommend consumers choose alternatives to bluefin tuna.

In 2010, Greenpeace International added this population to its seafood red list, saying:

“The Greenpeace International seafood red list is a list of fish that are commonly sold in supermarkets around the world, and which have a very high risk of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries.”[4]

The wiki on overfishing explains:

According to a 2008 UN report, the world’s fishing fleets are losing $50 billion USD each year through depleted stocks and poor fisheries management. The report, produced jointly by the World Bank and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), asserts that half the world’s fishing fleet could be scrapped with no change in catch. In addition, the biomass of global fish stocks have been allowed to run down to the point where it is no longer possible to catch the amount of fish that could be caught.[10] Increased incidence of schistosomiasis in Africa has been linked to declines of fish species that eat the snails carrying the disease-causing parasites.[11] Massive growth of jellyfish populations threaten fish stocks, as they compete with fish for food, eat fish eggs, and poison or swarm fish, and can survive in oxygen depleted environments where fish cannot; they wreak massive havoc on commercial fisheries. Overfishing eliminates a major jellyfish competitor and predator exacerbating the jellyfish population explosion.

Are the world’s fisheries destined to follow the example of the Atlantic Cod in the 1990’s? (Woah, lookout, there’s another peak).

3. Inefficient fishing with terrible collateral damage

We are also fishing inefficiently. Bottom trawling is a perverse method of fishing that scrapes the sea-floor of all life, only to sell a tiny fraction of the actual catch. Most of the catch is then thrown back into the sea as ‘by-catch’. It also destroys important sponge ecosystems along the bottom of our oceans.

Bottom Trawling

National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry presented some of his work at TED (2010). His work is beautiful, but the subject is not. As Brian’s TED talk so graphically shows, a mere handful of 7 or 8 shrimp kills 10 pounds of ‘by-catch’.

4. Are we being poisoned by micro-plastics in the ocean?

There are 5 oceanic gyres collecting a thick soup of micro-plastic particles, which one do you live nearest? Fish and birds end up with this plastic in their guts, and the various hormonal and chemical toxins accumulate through the food chain.

Oceanic Gyres

For more

What’s an Ocean Garbage Patch? : Video : Discovery News.

Wiki: Great_Pacific_Garbage_Patch

Wiki: North_Atlantic_Garbage_Patch

5. Tree-huggers into fish-huggers? Get involved!

For years we’ve witnessed environmentalists protecting forests. The sadly cliché images of activists chaining themselves to trees, in a sometimes vain attempt to protect a last bedraggled and degraded stretch of green, has led to the terms ‘treehuggers’ and ‘greenies’. (I applaud them all!) But what about our oceans? Are we about to see tree-huggers become ‘fish-huggers’ and greenies become ‘bluey’s’?

It seems so. Greenpeace has an amazing campaign to save the biodiversity of the oceans. (Wiki on marine reserves)

A marine reserve is an area of the sea which has legal protection against fishing or development. This is to be distinguished from a marine park, but there is some overlap in usage. As of April 2008 there are no high seas marine reserves, but Greenpeace is campaigning for the “doughnut holes” of the western pacific to be declared as marine reserves. [1] They are campaigning for 40 percent of the world’s oceans to be protected as Marine Reserves. [2]

The reference comes from this Greenpeace Campaign, which has a petition you can sign and all sorts of activist and ocean conservation news.

Also see the wiki on ocean conservation for more organisations.

There are marine conservation organizations throughout the world that focus on funding conservation efforts, educating the public and stakeholders, and lobbying for conservation law and policy. Examples of these organizations are the Marine Conservation Biology Institute (United States), Blue Frontier Campaign (United States), Frontier (the Society for Environmental Exploration) (United Kingdom), Marine Conservation Society (United Kingdom)and [Australian Marine Conservation Society].

On a regional level, PERSGA- the Regional Organization for the Conservation of the Environment of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, is a regional entity serves as the secretariat for the Jeddah Convention-1982, one of the first regional marine agreements. PERSGA Member States are: Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.