The fishing industry has brought a human-made disaster that is projected to drain our oceans of life in less than 30 years if nothing is done to stop them.
The urgency of protecting our oceans from the fishing industry cannot be stressed enough. To understand the severity of this industry’s impact on marine life, we must first be educated on how the ocean’s ecosystems are affected by current global fishing practices.
Commercial fishing not only drains our oceans of our favorite seafoods, but it also kills predatory marine species, such as sharks. While these mammals aren’t being hunted on purpose, they are being captured, and often killed, as bycatch.
Bycatch is fish that were caught unintentionally in an attempt to capture a target species. Through commercial fishing, tens of millions of sharks have died as bycatch.
Sharks, which occupy the top of marine food chains, are essential to keeping the oceans alive and marine ecosystems intact. If the predator at the top of the food chain is wiped out, the next level of predatory fish species will overpopulate and subsequently wipe out their own food supply.
This pattern will trickle down the food chain until all marine species are extinct. According to the Netflix 2021 documentary “Seaspiracy,” the world’s oceans will be depleted by 2048 if current fishing practices continue. And if the ocean dies, life as we know it will change forever.
Humans may be able to enjoy what seems like an abundance of seafood right now, but if current trends continue, there won’t be any seafood left for sustainable harvest. The first and most crucial step to fixing this issue is understanding the ocean’s essential role to our quality of life.
Oceans are one of Earth’s main natural carbon sinks, which are natural environments that can absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
According to the World Economic Forum, oceans absorbed a third of carbon dioxide emissions between 1994 and 2007, which is equivalent to 34 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide. If it wasn’t for our oceans, over a decade’s worth of human-made carbon would be heating Earth’s atmosphere even more than it already is today.
Not only is the ocean home to a million marine species, some of which have already gone extinct or are close to extinction due to human activity, but its ecosystems and carbon cycle are clearly necessary for the sustenance of all life on Earth.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, 3 billion people rely on seafood as their primary source of protein. But, that statistic doesn’t include people who consume fish as a non-primary source of protein.
Even for the individuals who don’t consume fish, everyone is responsible for educating themselves and spreading awareness on the fishing industry’s unsustainable practices.
Despite all the evidence exposing the fishing industry’s harmful impact on our oceans, “fishing subsidies are estimated to be as high as $35 billion worldwide, of which $20 billion directly contributes to overfishing,” according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
People need to be more conscious of the fish they’re consuming before they fund an industry that is projected to wipe out marine life.
Fish farming has been offered as another harmful form of fishing as compared to the traditional modalities of fishing that often damage ocean floors, collect bycatch and disrupt marine biodiversity. But rather than pose as the eco-friendly solution it was intended to be, the practice is just biological nonsense.
Modern salmon farms, for example, overproduce the fish in tightly packed net pens. Not only are these fish constantly swimming around in their own waste, but this type of breeding environment also leads to disease and pollution.
Even though fish farmers are coming up with creative solutions in an attempt to make the practice sustainable, the fishing industry as a whole is anything but.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “the fraction of fish stocks that are within biologically sustainable levels decreased from 90% in 1974 to 65.8% in 2017. In contrast, the percentage of stocks fished at biologically unsustainable levels increased, especially in the late 1970s and 1980s, from 10% in 1974 to 34.2% in 2017.”
The overfishing crisis comes as a result of fisheries’ complete disregard for ecological responsibility, which consequently led to the depletion of many fish species, fish habitats and their greater ecosystems. If this trend continues, an empty ocean won’t be far out of reach.
With all the damage that has been done, the best and most effective way to maintain the integrity of our ocean systems is to simply stop eating fish — for now. In its current state, sustainable fishing does not exist.
If the demand for fish goes down, we might be able to save the ocean’s wildlife from extinction within the next couple decades.