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

Are we really eating the fish we think we’re eating?

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As Australians, we like to think that we’re eating Australian seafood however, 75% of our seafood is currently imported, predominately from Asia. With scientists forecasting 37% rise in seafood consumption by 2050, this demand can put pressure on fisheries to overfish.

Therefore, how do we know that the fish we’re buying is sustainable? 

A key to choosing sustainable seafood is labelling. Despite some non-government and government efforts to improve this over the years, such as a mandatory requirement in 2008 to include ‘country of origin’ labelling for packaged seafood and AMCS’s Australian Fish Names Standard introduced in 2007; we still have a long way to go because it is still possible to buy fish that was caught or farmed overseas, but processed in Australia, labelled as ‘Made in Australia’.

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Australia’s weak seafood labelling laws means consumer health is at risk: high levels of mercury or other contaminants can be found in marine creatures such as fish/sharks which puts your health in danger.

What we still need on seafood labelling:

  1. Accurate names of species for imported, as well as domestic seafood.
  2. Where it was caught.
    • If caught in Australia, the individual State or Commonwealth fishery from which the fish is sourced should be provided.
    • If the fish is imported, the major fishing area as designated by the UNFAO should be identified.
  3. How it was caught: labelling for which type of fishing gear or aquaculture method used.
  4. The name of the company that caught or farmed the seafood.

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The Australian Federal Government is needed now more than ever to impose stricter regulations on labelling and traceability. All fishing has an impact but some methods are more harmful than others. This means that if we knew how our fish was caught/farmed, we could avoid choosing seafood that was taken or produced by more damaging methods such as super trawling. 

Help stop overfishing by banning the super trawler in Australia permanently by signing our petition.

Also improve labelling by joining the Labelmyfish campaign.

– A.K #Error404fish

What you need to know about wild-caught vs. farm-raised fish

What is farmed fish?  Is one source more sustainable than the other?  Does wild-caught fish mean that it’s healthier ?

We know the benefits of eating fish and now that we know that overfishing is an issue. You might wonder about sustainability and many people seem to be unsure of the differences between wild-caught and farm-raised fish.

Many people actually assume that wild-caught fish must be a lot better for you because it’s more “natural.”

Short Answer: It depends!  There are a lot of factors to consider such as nutrition, sustainability, safety and cost. And the outcome will be different depending on the species of fish, as well as where and how the fish is caught.

Organic Seafood

Image Credit:  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Wild-caught: caught by fisherman in their natural environment.

Farm-raised: grown in pens that are often submerged in ponds, lakes and salt water

Sustainability 

It can be a misconception that farmed-fish are more sustainable because they have been promoted by the fishing industry and governments as the solution to declining fish stocks in our ocean. However, fish-farming practices often causes a lot of pollution throughout the water and threaten existing creatures and habitats.

However, traditional fishing isn’t the solution either. Wild fish are harvested in a way that does a lot of collateral damage to the ecosystem and other fish. When fishing boats are sent out into the ocean, this isn’t very carbon-footprint friendly. Additionally, destructive fishing methods such as Super Trawlers are extremely harmful to our oceans. Sign our petition to ban them permanently in Australia. 

Find out about sustainable seafood here.

Health

Besides protein, fish are also the main source of omega-3 and low in saturated fats. The nutritional benefits between the two are not as great as you imagine.

For some species, such as the rainbow trout are almost identical in terms of calories, protein, and most nutrients.

  • Omega 3: In terms of vitamin 3, farmed fish have significantly higher levels.
  • Contaminants: From a widely cited study , they found that the levels of PCBs,  a potentially carcinogenic chemical, to be ten times higher in farmed fish than in wild-caught fish. However later studies  found that these levels are similar between the two.
  • Mercury: Levels in mercury are higher in some species of wild-caught fish such as the Bluefin Tuna. 

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Image Credit. 

A great resource you can use to search seafood recommendations is Seafood watch that will help you determine which type of seafood that’s fished or farmed in ways that have less impact on the environment.

Additionally, If you love sushi, check out our easy sustainable sushi guide! 

– A.K #Erro404fish

The Shark-ing Truth Under the Ocean

Although our main agenda is to raise awareness about the rapidly declining fish stock due to the detrimental effects of overfishing; there are these two other incredibly important issues facing our Australian waters that are often overlooked.

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Culling of Sharks 

Half of the world’s shark species live in Australian waters and just like the pacific bluefin tuna, sharks are extremely important in maintaining the balance of our marine ecosystems.

Just like overfishing, human actions such as culling have threatened the number of sharks, who are usually slow growing and late to reach maturity.  This means that it takes sharks a long time to recover from over-exploitation.

According to the Australian Marine Conservation, 97% of sharks culled over a 12 month period were considered to be at some level of conservation risk.

An amazing campaign fighting for this cause is Cut the Cull.  Please show some support and find out more by visiting their blog and follow their Facebook and Twitter accounts.  To help ‘Cut the Cull’,  make sure to sign their petition here!

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Plastic Marine Pollution 

We’ve all seen that excruciating video with the straw stuck inside the poor turtle’s nostrils right?  Plastic pollution is another devastating issue that affects most marine species such as predators (Sharks) and prey (fish) in the food chain.

Unfortunately, over 10 million plastic straws are used in Australia every single day and there’s an estimated 150 million tonnes of plastic spread throughout the world’s ocean already, with a rate that is increasing every year.

What can we do? 

Biodegradable straws can decompose within 35 days of use, while plastic straws can take over 200 years.

By banning the use and distribution of plastic straws, we can set the stage for further legislative action against other disposable plastic and encourage manufacturers to seek more cost effective ways to produce eco-friendly plastic alternatives.

Under the Ocean is another amazing campaign against plastic pollution, support their  blog and follow their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Make this the final straw by signing the petition.

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Together we can protect Australia’s marine biodiversity by taking these issues up to decision makers, along with doing our part to inform and educate ourselves and others around us!

– A.K #error404fish

Destructive Fishing Methods

Sustainable fishing has a lot to do with the way fish are caught and handled.

Feature image credit: NOAA 

Ways to ensure sustainable fishing:

  1. Reducing the number of fish caught at once especially using destructive fishing techniques

    • Trawling:

    This fishing method involves pulling a fishing net through the water behind one or more boats. This method is most common for commercial fishing and can be executed close to the sea floor or as mid-water trawling. Although regulated in some nations,  the practice can be really harmful due to its non-selective nature, sweeping undesirable fish both illegal and legal in size known by by-catch. By-catch commonly includes immature species of turtles, dolphins or sharks that are accidentally killed during the trawling process.

    The biological characteristics of marine species and ecosystems makes them particularly sensitive to human activity. Trawling stirs up soil that is suspended solids polluting  In the case of deep-sea species, they grow slowly and only reach sexual maturity when several decades old in cold and dark environments. Deep sea shock and depleting stocks due to fishing need to be further recognised.

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    • Trolling:

Baited fishing lines are drawn through the water.  This is a common method for both recreational and commercial fishingMany fishing vessels stay in deep waters far away in the sea for a longer duration and over time, they lose their nets. These nets remain in the water and continue to trap and kill millions of fish and other marine creatures. Pollution is also caused by this method of overfishing. The fishing vessels that spills or discards chemicals/oils into the ocean also severely affect the marine life.

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2. Using ethical killing techniques as soon as possible after landing fish

Studies have shown that fish are sentient and can experience pain, therefore we have to acknowledge that we have an ethical obligation to treat fish humanely and avoid destructive practices. All fish caught for consumption should be killed as humanely as possible and handled with care. This requires the fish to be stunned (rendered instantaneously insensible) before being bled out.  This improves flesh quality and storage life, particularly if the fish is bled then immediately placed in an ice slurry.

3. Banning the use of live bait.

Often in recreational fishing, live bait are used to lure fish onto the hook. The bait are usually small fish who have a hook shoved into their bodies while still alive. The hook is cast into the water on the end of the fishing line, and the bait’s struggling is what attracts the larger free-swimming fish.

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How can you help? 

  1. Asking restaurants, retailers and communities about how they handled, kill and capture their seafood and urging them to ethically source them.
  2. Actively choosing sustainable seafood and educating friends/family about issues to do with overfishing.
  3. It is important to urge governments to impose stricter regulations on fishing methods such as trawling and ensuring that by-catch reduction grids are fitting into trawls to allow certain species to escape.

– A.K #error404fish

Sustainable Sushi 101

Every time you enter a sushi restaurant, simple ask: “Do You Serve Sustainable Seafood?”

Yes we agree, ‘sushi is love, sushi is life’ but have you ever thought about how your choice of sushi actually impacts the environment?  Now that we know some of the detrimental effects of overfishing, it’s important to re-think some of our everyday actions, such as seafood choices, in order to save the fish. 

Sustainable sushi is made from farmed or fished sources that can be maintained for future generations without jeopardising ecosystems. Unsustainable sushi can lead to concerns for the environment, economy and health.

Choosing sustainable sushi is one of the ways to stop overfishing, this choice can lead to the emergence of more sustainable sushi restaurants, responsible fisheries and stricter government regulations.

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Better Sushi choices include: 

These species are generally resilient to fishing pressure and are caught/farmed using techniques that have low environmental impacts. Some of these species may still have minor conservation concerns, but have been assessed to be a better seafood choice.

🍣  Salmon

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🍣  Mackerel

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🍣  Smelt Roe  (capelin)

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Sushi to avoid: 

Wild caught species in this group, whether Australian or imported, may be overfished or their capture heavily threatens our oceans.

🍙 Tuna (Especially Bluefin)

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🍙 Yellow Tail

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🍙  Shrimp

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🍙 Octopus

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Some sustainable sushi restaurants in Sydney include:

🎣 Fish & Co.

🎣  love.fish

🎣 Wasabi Warriors

 SIGN OUR PETITION TO BAN THE SUPER TRAWLER PERMANENTLY IN AUSTRALIA!

– 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

Is there really ‘plenty of fish in the sea?’

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There’s a popular saying that there are ‘plenty of fish in the sea’. Metaphorically speaking, this idea is comforting when getting over a break-up or a rejection. However realistically,  actual fish stock worldwide is rapidly DECLINING and overfishing is a serious problem that directly affects Sydney-siders like you.

 So much so, that around 85% of global fish stocks are currently over-exploited and at home in Australia,  42% of fish are either over-fished or have an unknown status.

Additionally, scientists have forecasted a 37% rise in sea-food consumption by 2050 that will result in the disappearance of most wild fish. We are unable to sustain our growing appetites with local fishing methods, meaning that over 70% of Australian seafood is imported along with any environmental and social problems from the country of origin.

So you might be pondering, so what if the world is running out of fish?  How does this affect me? Or (hopefully) What can I do to help?

#Error404fish is a social innovation campaign that aims to raise awareness about overfishing and provide you with a solution to help the cause. Throughout the next few weeks,  these questions will be answered and you can find out more about ways to save Australia’s biodiversity, coral reefs and marine species. For more information, visit our solution page and connect with the community through Facebook and Twitter.

– A.K #error404fish