City Sunday

Overfishing : Oceans maybe empty by 2048

This may sound vague but it is true. Unless we act now, seafood may disappear by 2048. The loss of ocean biodiversity is accelerating and 29% of the seafood species humans consume have already crashed. If the long-term trend continues, in 30 years, there will be little or no seafood available for sustainable harvest.

The ocean is one of Earth’s most valuable natural resources. It provides food in the form of fish and shellfish. The ocean plays a critical role in removing carbon from the atmosphere and providing oxygen. It regulates Earth’s climate. The ocean is an increasingly important source of biomedical organisms with enormous potential for fighting disease. These are just a few examples of the importance of the ocean to life on land.

The oceans have been fished for thousands of years and are an integral part of human society. Fish have been important to the world economy for all these years, starting with the Viking trade of cod and then continuing with fisheries like those found in Europe, Italy, Portugal, Spain and India. Fisheries of today provide about 16 per cent of the total world’s protein with higher percentages occurring in developing nations.

Fish are caught in a variety of ways, including one-man casting nets, huge trawlers, seining, driftnetting, handlining, longlining, gillnetting and diving. The most common species making up the global fisheries are herring, cod, anchovy, flounder, tuna, shrimp, mullet, squid, crab, salmon, lobster, scallops and oyster.

The fish that are caught are not always used for food. In fact, about 40 per cent of fish are used for other purposes such as fishmeal to feed fish grown in captivity.

The amount of fish available in the oceans is an ever-changing number due to the effects of both natural causes and human developments. It will be necessary to manage ocean fisheries in the coming years to make sure the number of fish caught never makes it to zero. A lack of fish greatly impacts the economy of communities dependent on the resource, as can be seen in Japan, eastern Canada, New England, Indonesia and Alaska. The anchovy fisheries off the coast of western South America have already collapsed and with numbers dropping violently from 20 million tons to 4 million tons—they may never fully recover. Other collapses include the California sardine industry, the Alaskan king crab industry and the Canadian northern cod industry. In Massachusetts alone, the cod, haddock and yellowtail flounder industries collapsed, causing an economic disaster for the area.

Due to the importance of fishing to the worldwide economy and the need for humans to understand human impacts on the environment, the academic division of fisheries science was developed. Fisheries science includes all aspects of marine biology, in addition to economics and management skills and information. Marine conservation issues like overfishing, sustainable fisheries and management of fisheries are also examined through fisheries science.

In order to have plenty of fish in the years ahead, fisheries will have to develop sustainable fisheries and some will have to close. Due to the constant increase in the human population external link, the oceans have been overfished with a resulting decline of fish crucial to the economy and communities of the world. The control of the world’s fisheries is a controversial subject, as they cannot produce enough to satisfy the demand, especially when there aren’t enough fish left to breed in healthy ecosystems. Scientists are often in the role of fisheries managers and must regulate the amount of fishing in the oceans.

-NAVEED AHAMAD

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