Why we should give the ocean a break
Fish are a massive part of the food industry, especially in the UK where Britons eat about 167 million fish and chips meals a year from fish and chips shops alone. That’s a lot of fish from just one select market, now think about fish bought from grocery stores and in the rest of the world.
Overfishing is a massive problem and is reducing the ocean wildlife population. In fact, most people don’t even realise how big a problem it is. This article by The Fish Site shows in a survey of fish-eating adults, about 78% continue to eat fish despite concerns about sustainability or overfishing. If the majority of people continue onward with this mindset, we’re going to see some real damage to our ocean within our lifetimes.
In this article, we’re going to explore exactly what overfishing means and how you can make a difference to the ocean’s health.
What is overfishing?
The first step towards securing a better future for our ocean is to understand what we actually mean when we say ‘overfishing’.
Overfishing isn’t just the act of taking fish from the ocean. It doesn’t even necessarily mean taking a lot of fish from the ocean. When we say ‘overfishing’, what we mean is taking too much fish from the ocean at once specifically before they can reproduce and replenish their numbers.
Back in 2017, fishers caught up to 167 billion fishes for food. With so many fish caught in just one year just for food, can we really expect them to meet our demands?
As WWF reports, ‘the number of overfished stocks globally has tripled in half a century and today fully one-third of the world’s assessed fisheries are currently pushed beyond their biological limits, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.’
This means exactly what it sounds like – one-third of the world’s fish are being hunted faster than they can reproduce, leading to their dwindling numbers.
What does overfishing mean for us?
Beyond directly reducing the number of fish in our ocean, overfishing is damaging the marine environment, the livelihood of mariners and fishers, and will eventually affect our health.
Think about the creatures in the ocean that rely on fish to survive. Even if we’re not hunting them directly, they’re losing their natural source of food which is, in turn, reducing their numbers as well. Even more, fish help keep the waters clean, and without them there, we can say goodbye to the healthy ocean we have now.
Regarding local fishers and mariners, there are many who make their living by catching and selling fish. Many of these people are aware of overfishing and are working to improve the health of the ocean and conserve its inhabitants. However, with so many organisations directly contributing to overfishing and making it such a big problem, any small-time fishers or activists can have a hard time obtaining fish safely.
Finally, overfishing will lead to more problems in the future beyond damage to the ocean’s ecosystem and the livelihood of fishers. Billions of people rely on fish for their protein and oils. If overfishing continues and species numbers drop any more than they currently are, we can say goodbye to commercial fish goods.
How can you help?
If you’re thinking about helping end overfishing, that’s great! There’s a number of things you can do to help, including reducing the amount of fish you eat just like we explored with meat in our introduction to sustainable food. This doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning fish altogether, but by reducing the amount you eat, you’re reducing the demand meaning companies will fish less.
You can also look to support smaller fishing businesses rather than commercial businesses that contribute to overfishing massively.
Finally, consider donating some money towards organisations such as WWF or Oceana that are actively working towards a more sustainable world and fair ocean for fish.
Overfishing is a serious problem that more often than not doesn’t seem to get the attention it requires. By simply reading about it, you’ve already taken the first steps towards a better future for our ocean and its fish.
If you’re concerned about our world and sustainable food, be sure to check out our upcoming spotlights on organisations that help secure a future for our world one meal at a time.
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