Overfishing—catching fish faster than they can reproduce—is an urgent issue and is one of the biggest threats to ocean ecosystems. Today, roughly one-third of assessed fish populations are over-fished and over half are fully-fished FAO Large Fish Are the First to Go Fish that are large in size, live a long time and are slow to reproduce are among the most vulnerable to overfishing. Unfortunately, this includes some of our favorite seafood.
An Alaskan fisherman holds up part of his catch, a large Alaskan King Crab. As successful catches became more costly and less efficient, fishing areas around the world entered a new era of global and national management.
Not too long ago, we viewed the oceans as an inexhaustible resource. Over fishing the world, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Baltic, from the Mediterranean to the South China Sea we find our oceans struggling, in some cases dying.
Destructive fishing practices, pollution, "dead zones" from industrial and agricultural run-off, ocean acidification from CO2 emissions, and coral reefs suffering from the effects of global climate change are challenging the health of the oceans in unprecedented ways. It is an environmental disaster, of course, but also an economic one.
This month, Ohio State historian Mansel Blackford discusses the problem of collapsing fish stocks. Looking at the very different histories of two American fisheries, he explores how best to manage our ocean resources.
In the spring ofthe author of an introduction to three essays in National Geographic warned, "The oceans are in deep blue trouble. From the northernmost reaches of the Greenland Sea to the swirl of the Antarctic Circle, we are gutting our seas of fish.
Supertrawlers vacuum up shrimp. Numerous scientific reports have thoroughly documented the extent of over-fishing. Despite a growing awareness of the problem and efforts to address it by government officials and fishers alike, fish stocks around the globe have collapsed, most dramatically during the s and s.
As a result, Americans and other people around the world have watched as some of their favorite types of fish disappear from their dinner tables—North Atlantic cod, swordfish, and blue-fin tuna, to name a few—to be replaced by others, such as wild Alaskan salmon, pollock, Pacific cod, and sablefish.
There have been many efforts globally to address the over-fishing crisis, some more successful than others. Two American fishing regions highlight the pitfalls and possibilities of a sustainable fishing industry.
In the waters off New England, we see a marked failure to regulate bottom-fish catches. Fish stocks disappeared and along with them the livelihood of fishing families, some of whom had been in the business for generations.
Yet, far across the continent the Alaskan Pacific fisheries have succeeded in regulating the amount of bottom fish and, to some extent, salmon and crab taken from the water.
It was no coincidence that when Atlantic fish disappeared from American meals, Pacific fish took its place. However, even successful practices of sustainable harvesting are not without their own problems.
Debates have been fierce over who will benefit and who will lose out from these efforts to preserve fish stocks and the fishing industry.
Conservation, the fishing story tells us, is never easy.
The Over-Fishing Crisis During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, innovations in fishing and improvements in transportation helped fishers boost their catches—and consequently sales of seafood—enormously. Large-scale, "industrial" fishing can be traced back to the s and s, when fishers started trawling with steam-powered vessels in British and European waters, such as the North Sea.
At about the same time, railroads connected fishing ports to interior towns, increasing markets for fish. Having depleted inshore and near-shore fishing grounds, steam trawlers fished far from their home ports by the s and s. Steam-powered trawlers came to dominate Canadian and American cod fisheries, and fast-freezing techniques, introduced to some fisheries at the same time, further extended operations.
The decades after the Second World War saw a tremendous expansion and intensification of global fishing. New, long-distance fishing and processing vessels stayed at sea for months at a time.
There was great optimism that off-shore fishing would provide the peoples of the world with much-needed protein at reasonable costs. In the s and s, some scientists estimated that the oceans and seas could sustain an annual seafood catch of million metric tons per year, more than twice as much as was ever actually achieved.
A metric ton is 1, kilograms or 2, pounds. This tremendous optimism about oceanic resources rivaled that expressed about nuclear power and space at about the same time. A global over-fishing crisis soon developed. Between andthe global wild fish and shellfish catch soared from 19 to 94 million metric tons, a level it has maintained to the present day.
The global catch stagnated afterhowever, despite a tremendous intensification in fishing efforts. The fish cornucopia had disappeared. Between andthe number of fishing vessels worldwide increased fromtoand their aggregate size rose from 12 million gross registered tons grt to 82 million grt. A gross registered ton is a measure of storage space equal to one hundred cubic feet.
The ships used a broad array of sophisticated technological devices such as radar, sonar, loran, and Global Positioning Systems to find fish. They then caught fish with lines up to sixty-two miles in length, strung with tens of thousands of hooks.
They dragged huge trawl nets across the ocean bottom, often "clear-cutting" the ocean floor in the process. By the s a single trawl net might be large enough to hold a fleet of twelve Boeing jumbo jets. And they deployed gigantic purse-seine nets made of light but strong synthetic fibers.Declining Fish Stock: over-Fishing the World's Oceans Essay Words Dec 14th, 5 Pages The world’s oceanic large fish populations are disappearing at an alarming rate and extinction is a .
Favorable policies, loans, and subsidies spawned a rapid rise of big industrial fishing operations, which quickly supplanted local boatmen as the world's source of seafood. Overfishing is a situation where one or more fish stocks are reduced below predefined levels of acceptance by fishing activities.
More precise definitions are provided in biology and bioeconomics. Favorable policies, loans, and subsidies spawned a rapid rise of big industrial fishing operations, which quickly supplanted local boatmen as the world's source of seafood.
Learn about overfishing, one of the biggest threats to ocean ecosystems, and its impacts on fish populations and ocean health. Despite new and effective fishing restrictions, it will be decades before these long-lived fish recover.
Over time, catch has risen and salmon runs have remained abundant. However, increasing fishing efforts over the last 50 years as well as unsustainable fishing practices are pushing many fish stocks to the point of collapse. More than 30 percent of the world's fisheries have been pushed beyond their biological limits and are in need of strict management plans to restore them.