Overfishing By Jay, Sam and Nick

What Is Overfishing?

Overfishing is when more fish are caught than can be replaced by natural reproduction.

90% of the world's predatory fish stocks are already gone forever. This includes Tuna and Cod.

Why Is Overfishing A Problem?

Overfishing is a problem because it is damaging the ecosystem and creating an imbalance in the food chain. It is taking too many fish, meaning that one day, there will be no fish left to catch. Fishing is a crucial part of many countries economies so if the fish were all dead they wouldn’t be making as much money, potentially creating a financial disaster. Lots of jobs would be lost, and millions of people rely on fish as a daily source of protein, so they would be hugely affected.

What Causes Overfishing?

Poor fisheries management by governments is one of the biggest causes for overfishing. The current limits and regulations aren’t sustainable so fishermen are taking advantage of this and taking huge quantities of fish. In 2008 the EU set a fishing limit for the heavily overfished bluefin tuna. Scientists had recommended a limit of 10,000 tons, an amount which would help rebuild the depleted population. But instead of taking this advice, the EU put the limit at 29,500; almost three times the recommendation. Despite this already inflated limit, 61,000 tons of bluefin tuna was caught; six times the recommended limit. Illegal fishing is also a major part of overfishing. This is where people disregard the fishing limits and regulations and take as much fish as they want. It is estimated that 20% of the world's catch is from illegal fishing. This Overfishing is also caused by a lack of protected, fishing-free areas with only 0.16% of oceans being fishing free. This means people can fish almost anywhere.

If we keep fishing the way the world is now, scientists say that fish will be extinct by 2048.

Amount of Fish Caught Over Time

As you can see, the amount of fish caught grew rapidly from 1980 to 1995. From 1995 the amount of fish caught has slowly gone down, showing that reduced limits has had some effect. The amount of fish caught each year is still staggering, and unless we reduce our catch, the population of fish will continue to plummet.

Effects Overfishing Has On Humans

Around 200 million people are directly employed in the fish and seafood industries. One billion people rely on fish as a key source of food. That is one in every seven humans. For some people fishing is necessary and if they do not fish it could lead to unemployment, poverty and hunger. Last year 800,000 people lost their jobs because of commercial fishing businesses closing. Businesses closed because of fish stocks and certain species being on the edge of extinction or already extinct.

Each year the average person eats 19.2kg of fish. That's about twice as much as fifty years ago.

What Effects Does Overfishing Have On The Ecosystem?

Overfishing can have detrimental effects on the ecosystem and creates an imbalance in the food chain. Most overfished species are top predators. These fish are crucial for keeping the food chain in balance, as they keep the smaller fish populations under control by eating them. Without them, smaller prey fish populations flourish. This recently happened off the coast of North Carolina. Sharks had been severely overfished to the point where there was nearly none left. This created an abundance of sting-rays, which meant that their prey - scallops - were in hot demand. These scallops all were eaten by the rays, which was both bad for humans, and the rays because they had no more food.

Expert Knowledge

Interview with Richard Baker - Spokesperson for Legasea

  • Q. What do you think about overfishing? A. Overfishing is a horrible crisis that we have to make people socially aware of and finish in its tracks. Fish are a natural resource that eventually will run out if we carry on with what we are doing now. Commercial fishermen are destroying public fisheries and not realising that over one billion people rely on fish as a key source of food.
  • Q. How is overfishing affecting the environment? A. Overfishing is destroying food sources for fish, tearing up coral reefs and damaging the food chain in which fish need to survive. Fishermen are destroying the ocean floor underwater where it isn't visual to people, but if people could see what they were doing then their attitudes would change.
  • Q. Have you noticed a drop in fish around our area? A. Yes but only slightly. Because there are only a few major commercial fishing companies around our area there is only a little bit of damage being done that we can see. This is still a problem in our area though as IUU fisherman are illegally taking too many fish without fisheries officers even noticing. This is a major problem as 20 to 25% of snapper are now gone around the world.

Bycatch

Thousands of kilometres of the ocean are lined with nets, all extremely efficient at catching both the desired fish species, and unfortunately, everything else in the net’s path. This is by-catch - unwanted sea life that is caught then thrown overboard. Some estimates suggest that by-catch could amount to 40% of the world's catch. That's 28.5 million tonnes of fish per year. Shrimp trawlers are some of the worst when it comes to by-catch, throwing away 80-90% percent of their catch. Dolphins, turtles, juvenile fish, sharks and even seabirds are all victims of by-catch.

Drag Nets

Drag nets scrape the ocean floor, digging up anything in their path. Commercial fishermen never know what they are going to catch and if it is not the right species they will dump the fish overboard. Drag nets are massive and can go for 2 and a half kilometres long. They have weights in the bottom of them and destroy everything in their path. The problem with drag nets is that they are dragging across the seafloor, destroying the seafloor ecosystems.

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