Overhunting makes the planet less sustainable

In Opinion
An illustration of a chef tasting a soup with a shark fin in it. A chart showing shark population going down hangs on the wall behind.
(Amanda Tran / Daily Titan)

The worst game at arcades has to be “Deer Hunting USA.” It may be a shady and repressed childhood memory, but who could ever forget running to the machine thinking it was just another “Time Crisis” game, only to be disappointed each time.

To some, it was a stupid hunting game with no actual moral values, for others it justified hunting and made it seem normal. But the actual effects that come from hunting and fishing in excess — or otherwise interacting with the environment without thought — ruin not only ecosystems but human lives as well.

Similar to how every person in a family has a role, so does every species in an ecosystem. When an animal is dangerously close to becoming extinct, it’s not just another issue that tree-hugging hippies cry about. It actually poses a drastic threat to the sustainability of an ecosystem and the humans who depend on it.

In Thailand, the overhunting of elephants, tigers and civet cats directly affects forest growth. Larger animals are key to providing seed dispersal and thus aid in the survival of local tree populations. The diminishing number of large mammals has the potential to cause widespread changes to the tropical forests and the types of plants that grow there.

An ecosystem is supposed to be sustainable in order to keep humans from running out of resources, but also to keep other organisms at bay. Even the more forgettable ones have a significant impact.

Apparently “Save the bees!” has become the new environmental cause for people to become “woke” about, and focuses on the diminishing population of bees and the danger of losing their contributions to pollination.

But of course it’s not that big of a deal, until the loss of pollinators (from hunting or other human interference) becomes so vast in an area that it lowers crop yields, according to Lessons in Conservation, a journal run by conservation and biodiversity experts.

Beyond bees, pollinators such as bats and birds are dying due to loss of habitat, chemical misuse and invasive plant and animal species, according to Pollinator Partnership, a nonprofit organization focused on protecting pollinators.

And that’s just the loss of those pesky pollinators. Consider the impact of overhunting predators. If there’s a loss of large predators, an increase of smaller predators will follow.

If coyote were to become extinct, this would mean smaller animals such as raccoons, grey foxes or opossums would have an increased population, according to Lessons in Conservation. Their population increase would bring a higher mortality rate and local extinction of birds.

As of now, sharks have the potential to become extinct because their fins are in high demand. Although typically sold for their fins, their meat and body parts are also in demand with shark fin soup being the most exotic, expensive dish in Asia, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Speaking of the ocean, who remembers the Great Barrier Reef and how colorful it was in “Finding Nemo”? Oh boy, didn’t Marlin and Nemo sure live the luxurious life — too bad they’re probably dead along with the rest of the coral reef inhabitants.

The Great Barrier Reef has been destroyed at the hands of human influence. The burning of fossil fuels and release of greenhouse gases has lead to higher ocean temperatures and in turn, the bleaching of the reef.

Coral bleaching has become problematic for poor countries living along coral reefs across the world because it puts the human populations’ main source of nourishment at risk, and could pose a humanitarian crisis as their food supply inches closer towards nonexistent.

Other coral reefs also suffer from overfishing as fishermen use extreme techniques such as blast and dynamite fishing, (which is exactly what it sounds like). These methods may be “banned,” but it’s also illegal to drink before the age of 21, and teens still find their way around that one.

Overhunting, overfishing and human interference all play their own roles in the extinction of species and crises of human populations, so how long until it’s enough? Perhaps it will be the day when humans become intoxicated in their own selfishness and have to look for a new planet to sustain.

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