Overfishing is the process of capturing so many fish from the ocean to the point that it reduces their population, prevents the sustainability of the fish, and, as such, becomes a threat to the marine ecosystem. In other words, this is catching fish faster than they can reproduce to replace their population. The most important factor to consider when fishing is whether the amount of fish harvested will be wasted. This is because overfishing is not a result of the human population eating too much fish but rather, wasting the fish. This is particularly prevalent in the western world where there is no shortage of food and people have become particular about the kind of fish they want (not too fatty, not too small, not too old, etc.).
The main reason we have the issue of overfishing is because of the high demand for the nutrients that fish bring to humans; however, fishing would be okay in moderation and with proper laws in place. Some of the causes of this global issue include: poor fishing management which is essentially where there is a lack of communication between fishermen, causing there to be certain days where fish are exploited by everyone and aren’t given a chance to keep up with the demand. Another issue is unsustainable fishing with inappropriate nets that can become detached from the boat easily or pick up the younger generation of fish which are inedible and so go to waste. One huge issue is illegal or unregulated fishing activities where a fishing company allows their fishermen to enter protected areas to farm. There is a large economic need for fish and simply a need for food meaning that fishermen are often paid based on the mass of fish they get which creates competition between different fishermen and causes tension between government laws and the economy. Another large factor is open-access fisheries where there are no limited rights so fishermen just take all they can, only about 1.5% of water bodies have been declared as protected areas and many of these areas are still accessible to fishermen exposing them to destruction and depletion. 85% of the fish populations across the world have either been over-exploited or totally depleted so far and the number of overfished stocks globally has tripled in just half a century causing them to be pushed beyond their biological limits, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
The effects of overfishing are detrimental to the ocean’s diversity as well as to humans, therefore, we have to make preventing the continuation of overfishing a common goal. Overfishing has not only caused a decline in the numbers of fish populations, but it has imbalanced the ecosystem and food chain. The prey of the fish begin breeding in surplus, as the fish are not there to predate them. In addition to this, the organisms that used to predate the fish become at risk of extinction, due to a lack of food. Alternatively, there will be extinction of other fish species because both the fishermen and the organisms that would predate the original species of fish will begin to predate a new one, causing that one to also become extinct. This can lead to overpopulation of plankton (a small organism in the sea), due to their size they are likely to thrive after the fish have gone; however having a surplus of them throws off the entire dynamic in the ocean which can have a negative impact on humans as well, because any industries relying on the ocean must filter the plankton out. Due to fish extinction there may eventually be mass malnutrition - we see this beginning to happen already in poorer regions of the world. Fish are relatively easy to get and distribute as well as providing a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals for humans that we just can’t get as easily from any other food. Therefore, everyone who eats fish (especially the people in poorer regions of the world as they tend to eat a lot of them) will start to become malnourished. Overfishing is causing a global economic decline. If we continue to farm fish at the rate that they can't recover, then there will naturally be less fish in the ocean to catch and so there will be a decrease in any countries income that sells or trades fish. In addition, a lot of the fishermen and people who work in marine science will lose their jobs because there will no longer be a need for them which will have a negative impact on the economy. An impact other than extinction on the fish themselves is premature reproduction which is where the older members of a species are fished a lot (which they tend to be because they’re larger) then the younger fish may begin reproducing to compensate for the loss of members. However, this makes a species very vulnerable and far more likely to die out. Some fishing methods use equipment that both harms coral and pollutes the ocean. If the nets become detached from the boat then they can trail along the ocean floor farming fish that will never even be eaten; these fish end up dying in the nets which can continue to collect fish until they wash up on shore. All of these factors are essentially the effects that cause a loss of marine biodiversity which has a negative impact on the oceanic ecosystem and humans.
To combat these devastating effects of overfishing governments all across the globe are implementing regulations for the protocol (or whatever) of fishing companies (or whoever). Fisheries are encouraged to stick to their quota of fish in order to limit the number of fish that are caught at any one time. There are now only a set number of days that fishing is allowed; this way, there are some rest days in order for fish to breed. In some areas no-fishing zones have been marked out to allow fish to recover. Alternatively fishing areas are rotated so that each fishery has an equal number of days to fish. Equipment that catches young fish are discouraged to help them grow (only large-mesh nets are allowed in many areas) however, this can cause the fish to start premature reproduction. The boats used to farm the fish can cause oil spills which can directly harm any marine life in the vicinity.
To conclude, it is important to say that overfishing is a very real threat to all marine life has already caused so many species to become extinct. Not only that but there are so many negative effects on human lives from overfishing that it simply doesn’t make sense for it to continue. That is why many governments and countries have come together in order to put laws and regulations in place to prevent its continuation. However, it doesn’t end there; many other factors threaten marine life including climate change which is largely caused by humans. Everyone must be unanimous about ending these threats in order to overcome them and aid our planet back to full health. What can you do to help?
Written by Lily Moore