Imagine a world without fish…

Imagine if you weren’t able to eat your favourite seafood dish, or if all aquariums in the world disappeared? Think about how complicated and intricate the food chain is and if one whole species were wiped out, how detrimental will this be to our planet.  You might think that it’s only imagination but if we continue at the current rate of overfishing,  we will surely face the consequences.

How it started 

Earliest records of overfishing date back to 1800s, when society decimated the whale population for their blubber for lamp oil. Throughout the 1900s, for the purpose of consumption, people harvested fish species like the cod, herring and sardines near the brink of extinction. By the late 20th century, overfishing became a global problem yet, today many people don’t see the seriousness.

The rise of big industrial fishing fleets are the main cause of overfishing. Policies, loans, and subsidies spawned a rapid rise of large, profit-seeking commercial fleets who aggressively scouring the world’s oceans and developed destructive fishing methods, like the super trawler, for capturing target species.

Consumers soon grew accustomed to having access to a wide selection of fish species at affordable prices.In 2003, a scientific report estimated that industrial fishing had reduced the number of large ocean fish to just 10% of their pre-industrial population.

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Impacts 

  • Lost SpeciesToday, 90% of all large predatory fish are gone. Some of the species caught for food that are in danger from overfishing:
    1. Sharks
    2. Groupers
    3. Tuna
    4. Salmon
    5. Marlin
    6. Halibut
    7. Cod
    8. Monkfish
    9. Snapper
    10. Sturgeon
    11. Skate
    12. Orange Roughly
    13. Rockfish
    14. Whitefish
    15. Swordfish
    16. Flounder
  • Socio-economic impacts

Since fish provides more than 7 billion people with almost 15%or more of their dietary animal protein, the effects of overfishing are most forcefully felt by them. With other nations and cultures, fishing is their way of life and how they support themselves and their family. Many coastal communities depend of fish and are likely to face poverty.

  • Food Chain Imbalance

As the balance of the food chain and ecosystems are disrupted, this changes the predator-prey relationships in the ocean and as scarcity of their typical food source increases, some species may not be able to adapt to the new conditions and might die out.

If one species declines, fisheries expand their fishing areas and efforts or simply target another species. Global fishing needs to be reduced by about 50% to make fisheries more economical and allow fish populations to be sustainable.

  • Loss of livelihoods

Fishermen may be forcing  to loose their jobs and find work in another industry.  The global poor will likely suffer the most from food scarcity issues, malnutrition, and economic insecurity due to the disappearance of global fish stocks.

With overfishing, pollution, climate change, habitat destruction, and acidification in our oceans, we’re really facing the next GFC – Global Fish Crisis. 

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The Future

Now that we’re faced with the collapse of fish populations, commercial fleets are ‘fishing down’ which means they are going deeper in the ocean and father down the food chain for viable catches. Scientists predict that if we continue to overfish at the current rate, all fish populations will be depleted by 2050.

Therefore, it is important that we take action to stop destructive fishing methods, improve  consumer awareness and choices and impose regulations on overfishing. Although illegal fishing remains to plagues the industry, many scientists are optimistic that fish populations could be restored with stricter fisheries management, better enforcement of legislation on catches, and increased use of aquaculture.

– A.K #Error404fish

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Pirate Fishing

From what you’ve discovered in our latest post, 75% of seafood in Australia is imported. This raises questions of traceability and sustainability that is coupled with Australia’s weak labelling laws meaning we’re eating in the dark.

Right now,  we simply cannot tell if the fish we eat was legally caught because our current laws are not strong enough to trace from bait to plate.

Pirate fishing = illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU).

It is currently one of the main contributors to overfishing, unfair competition and impedes sustainable fisheries. In addition, it threatens the sustainability of our ecosystems and puts food security at risk. Although difficult to detect, current estimates suggest the losses of resources cost up to US$11-30 billion every year.

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Marine species most at risk of illegal and IUU fishing as identifying by a WWF,2005 report:

  1. Tuna 
  2. Sharks 
  3. Sea cucumber

Our oceans support the livelihoods of approximately 520 million people who rely on fishing and fishing related activities, and 2.6 billion people who depend on fish as an essential part of their diet. There is a need to move towards transparent and traceable fishing practices in order to  overcoming illegal fishing as it will positively contribute to the equitable growth and empowerment of the people who rely on fish.

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What can we do to stop pirate fishing? 

Regular surveillance, monitoring and patrols of our Australia’s maritime borders are a strong deterrent to illegal foreign fishers however,

  1. Encouraging Governments and regulators to adopt technology like AIS (Automatic Identification System) to track illegal fishing
  2. Installing on-board electronic monitoring systems in vessels which collects and shares information in real-time to provide better estimates of the catch.
  3. Encouraging consumer action to promote traceability and sustainability of the seafood supply chain. This means spreading the awareness and staying engaged: Australia Fisheries website for news of IUU 
  4. Sign our petition to help ban the super trawler which contributes to overfishing.

– A.K #error404fish

Your Oppor-Tuna-ty to Save

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Although Overfishing disrupts a vast number of different species and marine habitats, in particular tuna populations have severely declined due to overfishing and illegal overfishing. Although tuna does provide food and livelihoods for many people, they are more than just seafood. Tuna are a top predator in the marine food chain, maintaining a balance in the ocean environment.

Here’s why Tuna populations are most endangered due to overfishing:

Tuna are among the most commercially valuable fish on the planet. The Atlantic bluefin is a highly sought-after delicacy for sushi and sashimi in Asia—a single fish has sold for over $700,000! Driven by such high prices, fishermen use even more refined techniques to catch tuna. And the fish are disappearing as a result.

  1. Southern BlueFish TunaBeing one of Sydney’s most popular fish to eat, the Australian southern bluefin tuna industry is worth over $122 million annually. (2014 figure) Classified as ‘critically endangered’ on the IUCN’s Red List of threatened species means that population levels are down to around 5% of original levels, yet overfishing continues.
  2. Bigeye TunaBigeye tuna are an important commercial fish, especially prized in Asia, they are usually marketed as fresh or frozen.As bluefin tuna populations shrink around the world, pressure on bigeye fisheries is increasing.  They are also classified as ‘vulnerable’ and overfishing continues in the Eastern and Western Pacific Oceans.
  3. Yellowfin TunaAccording to the ISSF Scientific Advisory Committee, Yellowfin are overfishing and are classified as ‘nearly threatened.’ They are also increasingly susceptible to by-catch as juvenile yellowfin school with adult skipjack. They are an important commercial tuna species, particularly for the raw sashimi market.
  4. Albacore Tuna
    This species are smaller and extremely commercially important, as they are one of the two main canned tuna species (along with skipjack), and labeled as ‘solid white’ tuna. They are mainly overfished in the Northern and Southern Atlantic Oceans.

Greenpeace have a canned tuna guide that you can refer to when purchasing Tuna.

Want to help out? Sign our petition, you can also find out more about the effects of overfishing here and about sustainable seafood here.

– A.K #error404fish

GLOBAL FISH CRISIS #GFC

The ocean makes up 71% of our earth’s surface and is home for millions of marine wildlife and plants. The Ocean is also the largest source of food in the world as fish is the main daily source of protein for  1.2 billion people. This makes it an extremely important place for both humans and animals who mutually depend on each other to live in harmony.

However, Sydney is facing the next big GFC – Global Fish Crisis. This is due to unsustainable fishing methods and overfishing.  Overfishing has risen to such an extent that many of fish and marine species have either become extinct or are at the verge of extinction.
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What is Overfishing? 

Overfishing is the act of fishing from the oceans faster than the fish can reproduce and replicate in numbers. Sophisticated fishing technologies have proliferated the rate that  industries are catching fish beyond natural replenishment, allowing them to do so easily and cheaper.

This leaves lesser fish in the oceans meaning that the food chain is disturbed and fishermen have to travel longer distances deeper into the sea to catch fish which causes even more complications.

Critical Factors 

1. Poor Fishery Management

Unsustainable fishing is caused by inadequate fishery management and unethical fishing practices. From a 2008 UN report, the world’s fishing fleets are losing US$50 billion each year through depleted stocks and poor fisheries management. Profit driven fisheries who engage in large scale fishing not only affect ocean biodiversity, but the socio-economic well-being of the coastal communities who depend on fish for survival.

2. By-Catch

Every year, 27 million tonnes of unwanted fish and marine life such as endangered sharks, turtles and dolphins are killed alongside the target fish. These practices are pushing many marine species towards extinction and contributing to the food chain imbalance. Stop destructive fishing practices by signing our petition to permanently ban the super trawler in Australia.

3. Human Population and Consumption

Rising human population is the greatest threat to marine, estuarine and freshwater fishes and their associated habitats. This is exemplified by the rapid decline in ‘peak fish’ since 1950s.  However, the consumption of consumers correlate with population growth, with the average Australian consuming approximately 20kg of seafood a year. This creates further stress on the marine population due to the rising demand for seafood.

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Image: Before vs After showing damage to coral and marine habitats from human actions.

How does overfishing affect you? 

The impact of declining fish stock due to overfishing negatively influences Sydney’s community, environment and health. Scientists have forecasted a 37% rise in seafood consumption by 2050 that will result in the disappearance of most wild fish. This information asymmetry on how the fish are caught, how they breed and their natural habitats can lead to numerous issues affecting sustainability and health.

How can we stop Overfishing? 

It’s important to acknowledge that our day to day actions and choices have direct impacts to the bigger picture. We have the responsibility of encouraging and supporting our nation’s politicians and policy-makers to make decisions to stop overfishing.

You can help create a healthier and more responsible future by choosing sustainable seafood. Read more about  sustainable seafood

– A.K #error404fish