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Overfishing: The Ugly Side of Fishing and Can it Become Sustainable

by | Mar 31, 2022 | Dystopia, Sustainability




The earth is currently homed to more than 7 billion people. To feed all these mouth human depend on different sources of food and one of them is fish. The ocean is one of the largest sources of food in the world. Seafood is one of the main sources of protein for humans. An average human each around 19.2kg of sea animal a year which is around twice as much as it was 50 years ago.

But now fishermen are more and more frequently returning home with empty nets. Some scientists say that stocks of large fish have fallen by 90% and they are issuing warnings that we are facing the collapse of all types of fish species. The reason for this is overfishing.

We have been fishing for millenniums and the method of catching seafood has constantly evolved. Now fisheries and nets fishing has become an industry. It’s no longer a question of fishing rods but of investment and technology, to increase catch and make more money.

What changed everything is entire factories are taken to the sea. Where big boats catch fish and pack them directly on board for the market. Modern industrial fishing, which stocks grocery shelves, looks more like warfare.

The technique used nowadays has changed, as fishermen use radars, sonars and helicopters to guide factory ships toward fish. Long lines with hundreds of hooks and huge nets round-up massive amounts of fish, along with other species like seabirds, turtles and dolphins.

And the fish are hauled up onto giant boats complete with onboard flash freezing and processing facilities. All of these technologies have enabled us to catch fish at greater depths and farther out at sea than ever before.

And as the distance and depth of fishing have expanded, so has the variety of species targeted. Hence, fish are in trouble, due to intense recreational and commercial fishing. Overfishing is happening all over the world and has big consequences.

Impact of overfishing

Overfishing is a global issue, affecting over 85% of the world’s fish resources. And it poses serious consequences for marine life and the socio-economic well-being of humans. The practice disrupts the balance of the marine ecosystem. Unless it is stopped, this over-exploitation will leave the ocean uninhabited.

Overfishing occurs when the population of a particular species is overfished. This can occur anywhere including oceans and lakes. The process of excessive fishing lowers overall biomass levels. In California, sardines were nearly fished to extinction.

Some causes of overfishing include increased human demand, subsidies and poor management of fisheries. Excessive fishing has also led to the harvesting of endangered marine species. It is a problem that is largely caused by human activity. About 30% of fish stocks that are commercially fished have been over-fished and over 60% of fish stocks are fully fished.

A 2018 report, estimated that the total global capture by fisheries has reached the highest level ever with about 96.4 million tonnes which represents an increase of 5.4% from the average between 2014-2017.

While some fish habitats can be restored, they’re not sustainable. This means the world’s oceans can’t support all of its consumers. Furthermore, excessive fishing affects the entire marine ecosystem, including kelp and corals. This impacts the species that consume them. As a result, kelp and algae will grow out of control and eventually bury the coral reefs, which could damage the ecosystem.

large blue and white fishing boat
Photo by Eddie Bugajewski on Unsplash

Another major problem with overfishing is the loss of small herbivorous species. Herbivorous fish are important for the overall health of coral reefs. They keep the algae under control and are vital for the settlement of coral. Over-exploitation leads to an overgrown reef and reduces the number of larvae that need bare substrates to settle. This can lead to the collapse of the whole coral ecosystem.

Hence, overfishing will have serious consequences for the entire world and this will not be good for the future of the planet. It can lead to dead zones and ecosystem unbalance. It can also affect the livelihoods of fishers and their recreational activities. Over the past 40 years, marine species have seen a decrease of 39%.

Keystone species such as tuna and salmon are in danger of extinction. As a result, overfishing threatens the food supply of humankind. And it also harms fisheries as it can result in the depletion of the top predators, causing the overpopulation of smaller species. Tuna is one of the most highly-caught fish and has reached its highest levels in 2018 with over 7.9 million tonnes. 

Excessive fishing also impacts deeper water-dwelling fish, which have a slower metabolism and smaller reproduction rates than their shallow-water counterparts. Also, overfishing affects the diversity and size of fish species.

The loss of more valuable species leads to the depletion of smaller ones. This causes the population to decrease and the average body size of fish will also decrease. The fishes affected by overfishing also have fewer breeding partners and fewer eggs. This can cause a chain of ecological effects.

Overfishing has also been linked to oil spills and chemical spills. Even the smallest spills contribute to massive destruction. It is an issue that impacts not only marine life but also people who live in towns that depend on fishing as it threatens the livelihood of coastal communities and economies.

This is especially harmful to island communities where fishing is the main source of protein and an economic driver. As a result, overfishing will be a major problem for everyone. In fact, overfishing is already a global problem.

Another important issue is that the industry is highly unregulated. Illegal and unregulated fishing is estimated to constitute between 11-26 million tonnes which is 12-28% of fishing worldwide.

Over-exploitation is a serious issue. The consequences for the fish populations are severe and long-term. The removal of some species has led to the extinction of numerous other species. Excessive fishing has many other effects as well. It can cause many fish species to die. It can also damage the entire marine structure.

Effects of overfishing

There are many negative impacts of overfishing, both on the fish populations and on marine ecosystems. The practice can lead to a collapse of the food chain of a water body. Not only do the species that are targeted die but other species also suffer from a lack of food.

This is because it reduces the ability of many species to reproduce and replenish their population levels. Moreover, the removal of one species can have adverse effects on the populations of other animals and plants further down the food chain.

In addition to destroying marine ecosystems, exploitation fishing affects people who rely on fish to survive. These communities are usually located in developing countries that depend on small-scale fishing operations that are less harmful to marine life. These communities are more likely to experience food insecurity if they cannot access the food that they need.

industrial fishing boat at large sea
Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash

Researchers have found that Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is sometimes related to serious problems like human trafficking and slavery at sea. 

Due to the inability to regulate fishing areas and monitor activity. We must work towards finding ways to combat excessive fishing, which will benefit the ecosystem.

While there are many solutions to the overfishing problem, no one has been able to solve this problem completely. There are several ways to prevent over exploitation in our oceans and it all starts with educating ourselves.

Future of overfishing

Overfishing is a major global problem that has been plaguing the oceans for years. It has led to the development of more intensive industrial fishing methods. This practice has severe consequences for marine life, resulting in a decrease in the number of marine animal stocks that are considered biologically sustainable.

The impact of overfishing is devastating to ocean communities. Fishing destroys the natural habitats of aquatic species, removing important players from food webs. It also initiates a chain reaction, with fisheries switching to less-valued species and fishing down the food chain.

It is estimated that around 100 million sharks are killed every year for their fins. These deaths are not even accounting for the other deaths caused by excessive fishing.

Its impact on the ocean environment is far-reaching. Not only does it threaten fisheries but the global community is facing numerous threats and governments must act now to prevent them.

The simplest solution to overfishing is to shut down the fisheries but this would wreak havoc on the world as there are many mouths to feed. Developing nations are especially vulnerable to the effects of overfishing, as 54% of their jobs are in the fisheries. Once damaged, the ocean ecosystem can be difficult to repair. For this reason, the future of overfishing is uncertain.

According to a 2018 report, overfishing greatly affects the fishing community as about 59.5 million people work in the sector of fisheries and aquaculture.

In addition, plastic has overtaken fish, affecting the food chain and reducing the quantity of fish in the water body. The world is now producing nine billion tons of plastic, which ends up in the oceans. In a few years, the world’s seas will be home to more plastic than fish.

There are numerous ways to prevent overfishing and reduce the risk of global disasters. These methods involve educating people and law enforcement. Fortunately, these methods have achieved some success.

There are many ways to reduce excessive fishing and protect marine wildlife. Using a variety of techniques, including satellites, can reduce this over-exploitation. This will allow the ocean to maintain its natural beauty. This will also protect reefs from its effects.

The future of overfishing depends on the level of pollution. If we continue to fish for the same species, we’ll end up wasting much of the ocean’s resources.

The World Bank has launched a global competition to find a solution for overfishing and the winning teams will receive coaching and mentoring from experts in the field. Winners will also receive one-time access to additional resources to further develop their solutions.

The winner of the competition will be announced in July 2022. The World Bank will host a virtual knowledge-sharing event where winners will present their solutions to overfishing in coastal areas. Also, supporting smaller fishing industries will encourage a change in methods.

Although small and large fisheries catch similar quantities of fish, they rely on big boats and nets. By supporting local fishermen and sustainable fishing techniques, you’ll be encouraging sustainable fisheries and eliminating the need for big fishing vessels.

This will also reduce the costs of fish and other products, making the process more efficient and affordable for everyone. People can make a difference by reducing their seafood consumption. By eating more vegetables and fruits, you will reduce your intake of fish. Similarly, you’ll be contributing to the sustainable development of the marine sector.

A sustainable solution to excessive fishing will include a change in the way fisheries are managed. The industry needs to balance profits and growth. Increasing profitability in these industries will increase profits, which means it’s not enough to reduce overexploitation in the sea. Hence, regulations aimed at encouraging sustainable fishing are important.

The most effective solution to overfishing is to protect certain areas of the oceans. This can be done by declaring specific regions or parts of the world’s oceans protected from all fishing. By doing so, fisheries will be prevented from overexploitation and the ocean ecosystems will be restored.

Another effective solution is to ban fishing in international waters. This is an effective method of overfishing management but international laws may not allow it. Rather, they are often difficult to implement in real-world fisheries.

This is because fisheries are regulated and regulations are often difficult to enforce. While a global ban on fishing in these waters is an effective solution, many other solutions will still be needed.

Hence, it is not possible to meet the world’s demand for seafood without excessive fishing. By eating less fish, it is not possible to ensure a balanced ocean. So, reducing the consumption of fish will be an important step in finding a solution to this overexploitation.

The more sustainable solutions will be based on a global approach to addressing overfishing and ensuring that the marine environment remains as healthy as possible.