What Is The Environmental Impact Of The Fishing Industry?

Unmonitored and irresponsible fishing activities are extremely detrimental to aquatic environments.
Unmonitored and irresponsible fishing activities are extremely detrimental to aquatic environments.

What Is The Fishing Industry?

The fishing industry is any activity that involves catching, processing, and selling fish and seafood for either recreational or commercial purposes. Around the world, more than 500 million people depend on the fishing industry for survival. The commercial industry is responsible for catching 93.3 million tonnes of wild fish and for cultivating 48.1 million tonnes of farmed fish annually. In terms of the quantity of individual fish, this weight is estimated to be somewhere between .97 and 2.7 trillion. Because of its direct involvement in marine habitats, the fishing industry has a significant environmental impact. This article takes a closer look at how the fishing industry affects the global environment.

Environmental Impact Of The Fishing Industry

The fishing industry affects a number of marine conservation issues, including: fish populations, water pollution, and habitat degradation. Some researchers have claimed that the size of the fishing industry needs to be significantly decreased in order to maintain healthy marine environments around the world. This idea is in direct conflict with the individuals who rely on fishing as a primary source of income. The research, however, has indicated that if the fishing industry continues as is, wild-caught seafood will be non-existent by the year 2048.

Damaging Fishing Techniques

Not only does the fishing industry remove unsustainable numbers of reproductively mature fish from their natural environments, but it also directly damages these marine habitats.The amount of degradation caused by the fishing industry depends on the specific technique utilized to catch fish and other seafood.

One of the most detrimental techniques is bottom trawling, in which fishermen drag a net along the bottom of the ocean floor. This practice is also known as dragging. Bottom trawling disturbs the bottom of the seabed, stirring up significant amounts of sediment and damaging the coral species Lophelia pertusa. This coral is a vital component of healthy ocean ecosystems as it provides shelter to a number of deep sea-dwelling species. The sediment that is brought up from the bottom of the ocean floor can be carried along by currents, reaching areas of the ocean located miles away. An overabundance of sediment creates murky waters, blocking sunlight from reaching underwater plants and creating dead zones of oxygen deficiency. Additionally, many of the organic pollutants that have settled into the sediment are stirred back up and reintroduced to the food chain, beginning with plankton and moving up to humans. The UN has estimated that up to 95% of global ocean damage is a direct result of bottom trawling. The UN General Assembly has recommended banning this practice.

Blast fishing and cyanide fishing are two other practices that are detrimental to marine habitats. In blast fishing, fisherman use explosives to kill large quantities of fish. The explosives do more than kill the fish, however, and also cause destruction to underlying habitats such as coral reefs. Cyanide fishing is a similar practice, but uses cyanide to kill large quantities of fish. Fishermen spray this poison throughout coral reefs, Then collect the stunt fish and place them in freshwater for roughly two weeks. The fresh water is believed to cleanse the fish of any remaining cyanide. In many places, these practices are illegal, yet continue to be used.

Consequences Of Overfishing

In order to meet the rising global demand for fish and seafood, the fishing industry has been overfishing in increasingly larger areas of the oceans. Overfishing occurs when fish populations are reduced to below dangerously low levels, resulting in reduced growth, resource depletion, and sometimes unsustainable population sizes. This practice has been linked to the ruin of several ocean ecosystems as well as reduced catches for many fishing companies. This is particularly true in the North Sea, the East China Sea, and the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. In 2008, the UN issued a report, estimating that fishing teams around the world lose a combined average of $50 billion annually due to overfishing and subpar management practices.

Additional instance of overfishing have been recorded in other places around the world. For example, the anchovy population off the coast of Peru was nearly wiped out in the 1970s. The number of fish was so greatly reduced that the fishing catch went from 10.2 million metric tons in 1971 to only 4 million metric tons around 5 years later. Bodies of freshwater are not exempt from overfishing. During the 1980s, the blue walleye population in the Great Lakes of North America was fished to extinction. A report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 70% of the global fish population has been completely depleted. Given the heavy reliance humans place on fish as a food source, overfishing poses an extreme threat to global food supplies.

Reducing The Environmental Impact Of The Fishing Industry

In response to the environmental dangers of the fishing industry, several governments and international organizations around the world have worked together to create and implement policies and strategies designed to reduce the impact. These fisheries management policies are aimed at marine life conservation and are based on fishery science. Fisheries management seeks to attain sustainable use of marine and fishery resources. The idea is to limit the human actions that result in overexploited fishing populations and degradation of marine habitats. In addition, fisheries management policies that are designed to maximize sustainable biomass and economic yields, increase the number of jobs, and increase export values.

In order to accomplish the goal of marine conservation, these new policies have implemented laws which: define daily fishing limits per species, limit the number of days at sea, put a cap on the number of fishing boats allowed in one area, prohibit spears and bait, set minimum mesh sizes, and place restrictions based on seasons. Effectiveness Studies have shown that these types of quotas and limits prevent overfishing and help restore previously damaged ecosystems to a healthier state.

Additionally, some experts have suggested that fish farming could be a viable solution to the problems caused by the wild-caught fishing industry. Other researchers, however, have determined that fish farming presents new, negative environmental impacts on surrounding wild fish populations. These farms also require feed that may consist of ingredients from wild-caught fish products.


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