End of The Line – Understanding

You would have learned about my dread when I came to learn about the Global overfishing issue that faces it in my last post, and thanks for the many comments.
This post is about trying to understand this issue so that we can make some educated decisions when it comes down to how we source our fish, or even if we eat it at all for that matter.

So in a nutshell here are the main issues;

Unsustainable fishing or Overfishing:  In every ocean around the world, fish stocks are in decline. Every year, many fishing fleets catch fish faster than young fish can mature and breed, so there are fewer fish left in the ocean to form the next generation. If this continues, the fish will become commercially extinct. A great example of this is Cod Overfishing in Newfoundland.   Even after a 10 year moratorium on Cod fishing, the Cod have still not returned.

Furthermore, a study by Marine biologist Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia found that;

“In 1994, seafood may have peaked. According to an analysis of 64 large marine ecosystems, which provide 83 percent of the world’s seafood catch, global fishing yields have declined by 10.6 million metric tons since that year. And if that trend is not reversed, total collapse of all world fisheries should hit around 2048.”

Bycatch.  Often when fishermen are fishing for one species they inevitably catch other creatures that live near them. These may be other fish species, but may also be marine mammals, turtles or even birds that are diving to catch their fish dinner. If they become entangled in the nets or caught on fish hooks they usually drown. Over 300,000 small whales, dolphins and porpoises die each year as a result of becoming entangled in fishing gear, as well as many other fish species that are thrown back into the ocean, dead.

Competition for food. Because fish are caught in complex ecosystems, when too many fish are being caught it disrupts the balance of the food supply for other species. For example, if seals mostly eat one type of fish, and humans catch a lot too, then the seals might struggle to find enough food to survive.  Same goes for penguins in Antarctica, who have to swim further away from the coast to find food to feed their young during breading season due to fishing fleet now invading the Antarctic Ocean in the search for more fish stock.

Habitat destruction.  Some fishing methods like bottom trawling destroy sensitive habitats like coral reefs, sea mounts.  Others like aquaculture destroy mangroves and estuaries, which are essential breeding and feeding grounds for many different animals and birds. When these sensitive habitats are destroyed it can make it more difficult for the fish to find their food, hide from predators and reproduce therefore escalating the collapse of these species.

These main issues are brought further to light in this video featuring Dr Daniel Pauly, a biologist of fishings.  He is regarded as specialist of his discipline and is the Director of the Center of fishings from the university British Columbia in Vancouver (Canada).  I believe he knows what he is talking about. Note: the sound quality is not the best.

So in summary, we need to stop raping the oceans, and start fishing sustainably, setting aside major areas of ocean as sanctuary so that they can recover, but more on that in the next post.

Further reading:
National Geographic, Global Fish Crisis: Still Water
Overfishing.org – Why is overfishing a problem?
End of the Line movie
Australian Marine Conservation Society – Sustainable Seafood Guide

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Comments

  1. says

    Gavin, I was just wondering what are your thoughts on this:
    part of the overfishing problem is that ocean fish is now readily available deep inland, aka the opposite of a local diet. I am wholeheartedly supporting “if it does not grow here, don’t eat it” philosophy.
    I live on a coast. Our traditional food is fish and shellfish.
    So my question is: In your opinion, should we all limit our consumption of seafood even if it is our local and traditional diet?

    • says

      I agree with you Hana. We eat as locally as we can, and I remember that when I was growing up, the only fish we ate were the ones we caught ourselves in the River Murray. As long as fish is sustainably caught, and allowed to regenerate, then there shouldn’t be an issue.

  2. says

    I rarely eat fish…when I do it’s Alaska Salmon, definitely not local since I live in Florida! I also take Omega 3 capsules and that fish oil is coming from somewhere. My husband once worked for a company that had a motto that went something like this…”there are no problems only solutions”! But what is the solution to the ocean/fish problem? What needs to be done is to allow the fish populations TIME to recover (doesn’t sound like even this will be possible in some cases)! Will this happen or will greed win in the end, to the ultimate destruction of our beautiful planet! I’m not a doomsayer, but I am a realist…the handwriting is on the wall!

  3. Anonymous says

    Therr is a really good website and app produced by the Australian Marine Conservation Society. It shows different fish products as poor, ok, and great depending on the environmental status of the species. It also looks at the problem of aquaculture from the perspective of what the farmed fish are feed.

  4. Tracey says

    Hana raises an excellent point and one that I’m thinking about more and more.

    I also live in a coastal city (although not a fishing port) but rarely eat fish, and follow the Australian Marine Conservation Guidelines when I do. For me, the preferred options would be eating fish line caught by myself or someone I know, or second best would be buying direct from a small local fishing operation that I felt was reasonably sustainable.

    But at this point I’m not sure anything is even remotely sustainable. Every technological advance in fishing methods, catch preservation (drying, salting, freezing) and transportation has brought us some distance further down the road to the place we now find ourselves.

    I fear only a severe restriction in catch sizes & bycatch, and restriction of fishing methods to those that are less ‘efficient’ at stripping the oceans, have any hope of working, but these things would impact especially severely on the small operators and the coastal populations for whom fish/seafood are staple foods.

    What to do for the best? I wish I knew….

  5. says

    There are species of seafood that are sustainable. There are even, arguably, some that have outbred their niche, due to overfishing of their natural predators, so humans balancing it up a bit by taking on the predator role till the natural predators breed up again is not too bad a thing. Squid, for example. Sea mullet and Australian salmon (sea perch)are still sustainable in my region, partly because they’re less desirable fish, but they’re oily fish and as such really good for you, and it’s just a matter of cooking them right. We live inland, but the ocean is within our “100 mile” zone, and my partner loves fishing, so I’ve got a whole collection of recipes using sustainable seafood.

  6. says

    I am thinking about how supermarkets market fish and if we can trust it. For instance Aldi now advertises selling ‘sustainable fish’that is polecaught which I bought thinking I was doing ‘the right thing’ …but when I got it home but in fine print says that it is ‘made in Thailand ‘ from local and imported ingredients’…with catchment areas as ‘S1′ and ‘S7′(whatever that means).
    I like Linda’s 100k zone which I will look at more closely….but there are times when I am shopping for my family that I really wonder if I am saving the planet or just getting tricked by clever labelling.

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