The End of Fish?

They are one of the original species that inhabited the earth. They are the main source of protein for 3 billion people. They affect the livelihoods for 600 million people. They play an important role in nutrient cycles that sustain aquatic ecosystems. They are an obstacle against climate change by partaking in carbon sequestration. They are essential contributor to life on Earth. They are on the path to extinction.

Plastic: Nylon fishing nets are an efficient and predominant tool of the trade but also account for roughly 10 percent of the plastic debris. Every year 500,00 to 1,000,000 tons of plastic from fishing gear are discarded into oceans. They harm the underwater ecology in a variety of ways the two most notorious being: the degradation of microplastics and the entanglement of wildlife. The microplastic formation can arise either through discarded fishing gear or simply through prolonged and repetitive use of the gear. The entablement of wildlife happens simply by carelessly or purposefully discarding nets, lines, or ropes into the sea, and the sheer amount discarded causes harm through strangulation, cutting into flesh and muscles severing arteries, and trapping animals underwater that need to surface for air, to a wide variety of marine life ranging from fish to whales.

Overfishing: Catching fish provide a rich source of protein and economic opportunities to a large portion of the human population, so isn’t inherently bad as long as enough time and numbers are present to allow for the species to replenish, this is where the problem of overfishing comes from. Through the advancement in fishing technologies, increasing demand, and illegal fishing, fish and other forms of edible marine life are being caught at an alarming rate. How does this affect the ocean? By significantly affecting the population of one species it creates a domino effect that alters the existence of other species in that food web along with an increase in the growth of algae and a decline in the health of coral, thereby damaging the ocean’s biodiversity for a prolonged period.

Along with the countless targeted fish, other unwanted species and sometimes endangered ones can be thrown back into their habitat unharmed but are at times discarded dead due to a lack of concern on the fishermen’s part, resulting in unneeded causalities along with ones that are overfished. How does this affect people? The fishing industry worldwide currently offers jobs for around 60 million people and supplies the demand for close to 3 billion people. When the species of fish disappear so do the jobs they offer, this is significantly detrimental to developing coastal communities, who do far less damage to marine life than their commercial counterparts due to their small scale, but the overexploitation by the latter will render the former obsolete and will, in turn, affect the protein intake from fish in these communities.

Climate change is another by-product brought about by overfishing that has a circular effect on the fishing industry. Climate change brings about sudden rises in temperatures and acidification of the ocean’s water leading to the degradation of marine habitats and loss of species and in turn overfishing leading to less fish which leads to less carbon sequestration.

Damaging fishing methods: While with regulations, methods such as purse seine, trawling, gillnet, longlines, etc., that are generally associated with overfishing can be eco-friendly, there are some methods practiced that no matter what regulations are made will lead to irreversible damage. Blast fishing, dynamite, or homemade bombs are used to indiscriminately kill a large number of fish and bring about the destruction of the physical environment notably coral reefs. Bottom trawling involves towing a net at the very bottom of the ocean to capture bottom-dwelling fish such as shrimp, cod, squid, and rockfish, as this process is carried out damage is inflicted on the seabed communities. Cyanide fishing is a method used to catch live fish for aquariums, a sodium cyanide mixture is sprayed onto the fish habitat to stum them, there are two adverse effects from this method, one being what the previous two methods lead to which the damage of the targeted fish’s habitat, the other being the mortality rate of the fish within 48hrs of capture is 75 % so in other to compensate this loss is an extra amount of fish are targeted.

According to an article published in 2006 and by the recent Seaspiracy documentary, the oceans are predicated to be empty of fish by 2048, although this date has been disputed by various experts, the underlying concern it carries is still relevant and steps need to be taken to counter the above mentioned sources and various others in order to alleviate us from the possible future.

Published by LakesOfIndia

Lakes of India is an E.F.I initiative aimed at sensitizing the larger public on freshwater habitats across the country. A blog platform where one can read about lakes across India. You can become a guest blogger to write about a lake in your hometown and initiate an action to protect that lake.

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