What fish did you eat lately?

Overfishing is a vast and extremely growing risk for our highly sensitive eco-system. The world faces the enormous challenge of having to provide food to a population well in excess of 9 billion people by the middle of the twenty-first-century. The growing population explains the all-time high resulted in 2016 of 171 million tonnes of fish taken out of our oceans, of which 88 percent was utilized for direct human consumption (FAO, 2018).

Overfishing our oceans. Leviathanproject. Online: https://www.leviathanproject.us/food-5

Overfishing is evolving to be a major detriment for our environment. One big issue of overfishing arises with fishing of non-targeted species like sharks, turtles and not commonly well known species. This occurs with the trawl fishing method, where the net is so huge that it touches the floor. There is no way that with this method only the needed fish will be taken out of the water. Using this cruel method everything will be fished out within meters and the aqua-eco-system will be destroyed by the net and the huge amount of sea life taken out at one time (OECD, 2008).

Bycatch of non-targeted species, blogs@NTU, 2014.  Online: https://blogs.ntu.edu.sg/hp331-2014-60/?p=223

Additionally other reasons are the poisonous fishing particles arising from the countless fish-farms. Although this is a way of sustainable fishing there is a negative side that comes with this method. Chemicals and antibiotics are used to gain as much fish as possible and to keep them “healthy”. This is where the particles come into the aqua life and destroy the living space of millions and millions of fishes and plants living next to the fish farms. Nevertheless the waste thrown back in the ocean including fishing net, plastic, and general waste completes the hazards of ruining our aqua-eco-system (OECD 2018).

Modern Farming, 2013. Online: https://modernfarmer.com/2013/11/u-s-farming-fish-ever-nowhere-near-china/
Plastic Pollution in the South Pacific – new study into plastic found in commonly eaten fish, Alice Forrest, 2018. Online: https://www.diveplanit.com/marine-environment/plastic-pollution-in-the-south-pacific/

However there is also a meteorological aspect which is growing to be a bigger problem. Every few years the pattern of air circulation of the equatorial Pacific changes in a way that affects oceanic upwelling (a current of cold, nutrient-rich water rising to the surface). This weather condition is known as El Niño and said to happen more and more as a result of the climate change. Basically during El Ninõ, upwelling brings up warm water instead of cold water with only few nutrients. So the missing nutrients will change the whole eco-system. Because sea life which needs the cold water suddenly cannot live there anymore (Department of Oceanography Texas A&M University, 2018).

What is el Niño?,  Wonderopolis, 2018. Online: https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-is-el-nino

Nonetheless there must be a way to change those numbers and find a solution to a sustainable way of fishing. Due to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations more than 60 percent of our worldwide fishes are on their maximum level of utilization. Salmon, tuna, white fish like pangasius or cod are the world’s favourites to be fished and consumed. This leads to a first suggestion: Try to eat different fish, ask for another similar fish, which might be even local, at the counter from your grocery store. Secondly, only eat fish which comes from a sustainable fishery. In reference to the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, they only certify responsible aquaculture. They allow fisheries to use their logo to move the aquaculture industry toward sustainability. So keep an eye on the logo when you buy fish and ask at your grocery store for certified fish (ASC, 2018).

It is not too late for our marine life to get better – we only need to change our behaviour. If we do so, everyone in the industry might realises that they need to change their methods and ways of fishing to become sustainable. It’s up to us – start with something today!

The World’s fish: growing demand and shrinking supply, Bloomberg. Online: https://www.bloomberg.org/press/infographics/worlds-fish-growing-demand-shrinking-supply/


Aquaculture Stewardship Council, 2018. What’s our approach. Online: https://www.asc-aqua.org/what-we-do/our-approach/our-approach/  (20.10.2018) 

Department of Oceanography Texas A&M University, 2018. Peruvian Fisheries and El Niño. Online: https://ocean.tamu.edu/academics/resources/ocean-world/fisheries/peruvian-fisheries-and-el-nino/index.html (23.10.2018)

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2018. The State of world fisheries and aquaculture – meeting the sustainable development goals, Rome: Online: http://www.fao.org/3/i9540en/I9540EN.pdf (13.10.2018)

OECD, 2008. Umweltausblick bis 2030, S. 328

OECD/FAO (2018), OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2018-2027, OECD Publishing, Paris/Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome. Online: https://doi.org/10.1787/agr_outlook-2018-en (20.10.2018)


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