Today, each person eats on average 19.2kg of fish a year – around twice as much as 50 years ago, according to the WWF. (Facts and Figures) What affect does this demand for fish have on the environment, animals, and our own health? Commercial Fishing is DESTROYING all 3 of these aspects right under our nose. 3 major concepts need to be brought to light to understand the damage of commercial fishing- plastic contribution, bycatch, and inedible fish, if any fish at all.
Plastic will outweigh fish by 2050. 705,000 tons of this is fishing nets, making up majority of the waste. (CondorFerries) This means, commercial fishing, one activity alone, accounts for half of the plastic in the ocean. There should be safe zones where commercial fishing is prohibited in order to reduce these alarming numbers, however, only around 1% of our oceans are truly protected. (Gibbens, S) The fact of the matter is- we don’t have video cameras in the ocean to capture illegal fishing activity- we have the Coast Guard, and they cannot be everywhere at once.
Commercial Fishing destroys animal life by catching high numbers of bycatch. About 40% of fish catch worldwide is unintentionally caught and is partly thrown back into the sea, either dead or dying. (Facts and Figures) This group of animals unintentionally caught are known as bycatch. If you check the WWF website, https://www.fishforward.eu/en/project/by-catch/, you can see live updates of how many animals lives are lost. Many dolphins and whales get caught in these commercial fishing nets, cannot reach the surface to breathe, suffocating and dying a painful death. This raises an ethical question to commercial fishing.
Dolphin Safe Controversy
Commercial Tuna Fishermen try to combat bycatch by adding a “Dolphin Safe” label to canned tuna, indicating that the company followed U.S. fishing operation laws, specifically regarding to bycatch. It’s important to note, that even though there’s a label on the can, that there’s no one out in the ocean to monitor and prove that the commercial fishermen actually followed “Dolphin Safe” rules. More information regarding this can be found in the Netflix Documentary, Seaspiracy. https://www.netflix.com/watch/81014008?trackId=14277281&tctx=-97%2C-97%2C%2C%2C%2C
Inedible Fish Due To Plastic Ingestion
Commercial Fishing, along with other factors, are making fish inedible. Millions of pieces of plastic get contained in the 5 ocean gyres, and marine wildlife is directly poisoned on this while feeding in their habitat. (CondorFerries) In terms of plastic, 8.3 million tons are discarded in the sea yearly. Of which, 236,000 are ingestible microplastics that marine creatures mistake for food. (CondorFerries) So to put it simply, we dump plastic in the ocean, fish mistake it for food, fish become poisoned by plastic, then we eat the poisoned fish. Commercial fishing is overharvesting the edible fish we have left, and they don’t even have time to reproduce their populations unless we stop commercial fishing and let nature replenish itself.
Call To Action
We need to stop commercial fishing in order to save our oceans and the wildlife that lives in it. Commercial fishing contributes to half of the plastic in the ocean, unnecessary bycatch, overharvesting of fish, and poisoning fish by the plastic deposited in the ocean by their activities. Catching your own fish locally could be an option, or at least significantly reducing seafood intake. The best option is to stop eating fish in order to shut commercial fishing companies down. If we don’t make a change now, it might be too late to save the fate of the fish.
CondorFerries. (n.d.). 100+ ocean Pollution statistics & Facts (2020-2021). Retrieved April 27, 2021, from https://www.condorferries.co.uk/marine-ocean-pollution-statistics-facts
Facts & figures: The cold hard facts about overfishing. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2021, from https://www.fishforward.eu/en/topics/facts-figures/
Gibbens, S. (2021, February 10). Oceans are in trouble, ipcc says. Why are MARINE Protections falling short? Retrieved April 27, 2021, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/paper-parks-undermine-marine-protected-areas