Our world is a world of water. The oceans cover 71% of the surface of the earth and provide us with the oxygen we need for every breath we take. The seas are a blue and calm void yet under the surface, they hold life, mysteries and wonders we could scarcely imagine. Today, much of this life is threatened by the actions of the planet’s top predator human, pollution, climate change and intensive overfishing threatens a significant amount of the life in our seas, it also puts at risk the livelihoods of those who work at sea, those who enjoy its spoils and those that rely heavily on marine life to survive
Individuals and groups who document and study the marine environment may find that many of these wonderful creatures become lost, they may find that much of the marine life we see today is lost to history and as the seas continue to change we may find that much of the life around us can only ever be seen through a screen of history.
Humanity has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with the sea for many thousands of years and for nearly all of human history, there has been enough fish in the sea to feed us all as technology developed in the 20th century fishing vessels could catch more fish in more places than ever before today these developments continue and we have a global fishing industry worth nearly two hundred and fifty billion dollars per year in a world where one in seven of us were lied directly on fish to survive. Increasing global population squeezes on resources and increased consumption raised the question, can we continue to exploit the sea without changing it forever.
In 1988, the amount of fish caught at sea peaked and since then global fisheries catch has stabilized at around 80 billion tons per year but because demand for fish did not be the majority of stocks today are at or beyond their maximum sustainable yields consequently fishing has played a major role in changing the dynamics and demographics in the sea fishing has transformed the marine environment in a couple of ways the first obviously is the removal of fish when you start fishing an area then the big old fish disappear first and gradually then as fishing intensifies the species disappear in order of their size, so the biggest the most vulnerable ones disappear before the resilient one, so what we have left today is resilient species that can cope with high levels of removals the oceans today are very different to how they used to be. while it may appear that the oceans are healthy and that there are plenty of fish in the sea the reality is that we have over fished marine environments and major changes have occurred one of the most significant of those changes has been the reduction in the number of large and predatory meaning species because large marine species are so commercially valuable that they’ve been continuously targeted by fishers over time but by fishing too quickly and too vigorously putting pressure on the ability of the marine species to replenish themselves.
The pattern of depleting large and predatory fish from our oceans is something that has been observed across the world and when predator numbers are reduced in an area this can significantly alter food web dynamics on a global scale these changes in the food webs that have occurred as a result of overfishing large fish was first described in 1997 by Professor Daniel Pauly. Overfishing is the removal of a species of fish from a body of water at a rate that the species cannot replenish, resulting in those species becoming underpopulated and even extinct. In a Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations report from 2018, the FAO estimates that one- third of world fish stocks were overfished by 2015. Over 30 Billion euros in public subsidies are directed to fisheries annually.
It is very prevalent all over the world, Prolonged overfishing can and has lead to critical dispensation, where the fish population is no longer able to sustain itself. Overfishing has lead to the upset of entire marine ecosystems. Dramatic changes in species composition can result in an ecosystem shift, where other equilibrium energy flows involve species compositions different from those that had been present before the depletion of the original fish stock. Overfishing has stripped many fisheries around the world of their stocks.
One way scientists are able to determine whether or not fishing down marine food webs has occurred has been to record change in the mean trophic level of Marine landings over time the mean trophic level is an indicator based on the position that organisms hold within food webs, if the level is seen to fall it is suggestive that larger organisms are being depleted and a greater proportion of smaller organisms are being caught poorly and this is happening in many of the world’s oceans.
For example, in European waters the change in mean trophic level indicates that fishing down the food web has occurred in almost all areas although some regions have seen a depletion of fish stocks without an apparent change in mean trophic levels since recording began in the Mediterranean for example 95% of fish stocks are overexploited but there has been little change in the mean trophic level since the 1950s the scientists to determine how regions like the Mediterranean may have changed prior to monitoring fish catch they can turn to an unlikely historical imagery is obviously something which we can look at to learn from about what the sea was like in the past.
With times the technology used in fishing has improved we have seen the industry move further offshore to meet demand now even the deep sea has been fished on an industrial scale as well, which is deeply troublesome and has contributed so much to the major imbalance in proportions of fish stocks.
Industrial fishing capacities and consumer trends have nearly doubled in the last 50 years and The demand for fish is growing with aquaculture production trends reaching a growth rate of 527% from 1990 to 2018. The united nations food and agriculture organization estimated that 31.1% of the world fish stocks are subject to overfishing. The fraction of fish stocks that are within biologically sustainable levels has exhibited a decreasing trend, from the 905 in 1974 to 66.9% in 2015.
Drivers of deep-sea fishing on an industrial scale increased demand for fisheries products searching for new opportunities like overfishing in coastal waters and open ocean pelagic water sea and in the reality is that the fishing is going ever deeper. there are some disturbing trends in the world that deplete fisheries which be can seen through all of these observations. large vessels are fishing in other parts of the world to help meet the west, especially the EU’s demand, much of this fishing has been taking place in waters belonging to developing nations under trade deals known as bilateral trade agreements for Europe this means the EU is given access to foreign waters and in exchange promises to aid the development of the host nation. Africa is an attractive destination for EU vessels as the seas are rich and productive and the local fishing industry is too underdeveloped to exploit it.
However these trade agreements do not offer the best deal for the marine ecosystems and life underneath our oceans, these fishing subsidies have lead to reckless exploitation of these at unprecedented levels. This also puts the local fishing industry at great risk, there are quite a number of industrial fisheries for species that are very low down on the food chain. it’s not that affined per se the idea of fishing that is wrong it’s the fact the quantities involved, the frequency involved is problematic as it tips off the scales of proportion of these species and majorly affects the marine ecosystems. and because they are generally multi-million dollar operations run by companies they have very very strong lobbying powers fishing effort across the world and is supported with financial subsidies to help ensure a fishing can continue without taking into consideration the harms of the unprecedented quantities involved. globally around 26 billion dollars a year is given to the fishing industry, that’s more than the UN peacekeeping budget, all digital music sales and the cost of the Glasgow, London Olympics combined.
While subsidies are often used to manage and enforce fisheries, conservation efforts over half of global argue that subsidies contribute to an increased overfishing because of the lobbying by large multimillion-dollar corporations.Scientists around the world and the united nations sustainable development goals have expressed that we need to protect between twenty and thirty percent of all marine habitats across the world to the highest degree and the UN SDG targets in 2006 aimed to protect 10 percent of the world’s oceans. Today in 2015 less than 3% of the world’s oceans have any type of protection and less than 1% are classified as protected.
On the one hand, overfishing is one of the significant drivers of ocean wildlife decline. It has fishery stocks nearly tripling over the last fifty years, and not even endangered species are spared. On the other, fishing is the livelihood of millions around the world. A major contributing factor to why we seem to be missing both scientific and political targets is pressure from the fishing industry, driven by a fear of losing business and a mistrust of the science in people at large. In order for conservation to be done, we need to convince an entire industry and people at large to believe in this benefit of conservation and to provide them with an alternative to their livelihood to make that shift in order to solve the issue of overfishing.