For 40,000 years humanity has been fishing in the Earth’s oceans although it wasn’t until the 15th century where commercial fishing took off; with only in the 19th century and the invention of the steamboat making it even more widespread. With widespread commercial fishing, its no longer a matter of needing substance but instead of making profit. Fishing techniques have changed considerably over the last decades; fishermen used to only use fleets to increase their catch; but now what has changed everything is the invention of larger nets, large enough that can measure 40 km with an opening up to 23.000 square meter, big enough to hold more than 500 tons of fish.
Industries focus on making profit which in turn causes the issue of overfishing. Every year industries fish over 90 million tons of wild fish globally, half of this amount is fished by only 1% of their fishing boats. Industries no longer select their catch; they will just take it all out and sell it later depending on the market value of the fish.
Over 80% of the fish stock worldwide has been declared to be overexploited, meaning that it has essentially been fished out. Fishing has reached the ceiling; millions of fish are being sacrificed as a result of mass fishing. 70.7% of the earth is ocean, and our ocean is the largest source of food in the world with fish being the main source of protein for over 1.2 billion people around the world.
Due to big commercial overfishing after 500 years, many of the oldest fishing companies have been starting to collapse. We are overfishing our seas, there are more fishes caught than it can be replaced by natural reproduction in a year, and there are also all different kinds of species population collapsing. A recent estimate places the amount of whales killed in the last century at nearly 3 million, another study estimates that overfishing has reduced large fish populations to 10% of their pre industrial size.
As one species gets overfished, fishermen move on to another kind of fish and repeat the cycle. Some fishing practices ruin ecosystems too, one of the most popular methods of catching fishes is trolling, while it can catch a lot of fish it also does a lot of damage due to the layers of sediments being removed which overtime could leave that area bare
In no way am I saying that fishing itself is bad as it provides food security to 200 million people worldwide, however, the practice of overfishing is. We need a solution soon; I know there are already some regulations in place like fishing quotas, closed seasons, size limits, and the protected areas. Those help, but it’s hard to regulate the open ocean. Just 1.6% of the world’s ocean has been declared as marine protective areas, and marine protective zones could be a good compromise for both business and biology by restricting fishing in some areas and other areas that allows fishing in small amounts.
Another problem that concerns me about our ocean environment is how much trash is in it, the ocean hangs onto plastic bags, bottles, plastic straws, etc. for decades even centuries to the point where the plastic won’t decompose and will remain there forever. There is about 200 million tons of our trash in the ocean, 7500 pieces of plastic floating on the ocean surface per square km, and 14 billion pounds of trash is dumped into the ocean every year.
As the world’s population grows even more plastic garbage is thrown away, it is really industrial dumping that does the most damage, and all of this trash is taken out into huge currents that circle the world. Unless we ourselves do something about actively removing the plastic it will remain there indefinitely; it takes 500 to 1000 years for plastic to photodegrate in the sunlight completely, and during that time it is just breaking apart into smaller and smaller pieces that are floating around.
As a result of ocean or marine pollution gathered by oceanic currents the great pacific garbage patch is created. This Pacific garbage patch is a giant floating dumpster in the Pacific Ocean that weights 7 million tons of garbage, twice the size of Texas. The Pacific garbage Patch is actually two distinct areas, the Western Pacific patch located between Hawaii and Japan, and the Eastern Pacific garbage patch that floats between Hawaii and California. 80% of the plastic comes from land and the other 20% comes from recreational boaters, and large cargo ships, which drops about 10,000 steel containers of garbage into the sea each year. 90% of this trash is plastic, plastic bags, packaging material, bottle fishing nets, and name just a few. 70% of these plastics sink into the bottom of the ocean or just below the surface, the rest floats and eventually ends up in our shores.
Plastic waste is a major source of marine pollution and changes the chemical makeup of water, and it is not biodegradable. The macros that break up other substances do not recognize plastic as food, leaving it to float forever. Sunlight does eventually photo degrade the plastics, causing them to fragment. Unfortunately, this plastic is often mistaken for food by marine animals, albatrosses are frequently found with stomachs full of plastic.
Plastic bags have been found blocking the breathing passages and stomachs of many marine species. Plastic releases toxins and acts as a chemical sponge; it concentrates many damaging pollutants found in the ocean including DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), which is commonly known as an insecticide that is known for its detrimental effects on the Earth. When broken into small pieces, plastic becomes microscopic. The toxic chemicals released by these plastics are absorbed by tiny marine organisms and into the food chain. These chemicals then become much more concentrated than they would be in the surrounded water.
As this plastic goes through the food chain, the concentration of toxic chemicals rises. Jellyfish eat toxic plastic pieces, which are then eaten by larger animals that often end up consumed by humans. The toxic chemicals cause hormones disruption in humans, this leads to serious health problems, including cancer, immune system damage, behavioral problems, and it reduces fertility. How long will this continue before our population realizes the damage is irreversible?
Another problem that really concerns me is shark finning. Humans kill approximately 11,417 sharks per hour, 274,008 per day, 1,918,056 per week, and 100,012,920 per year just by finning. Finning is a brutal act of cutting off shark fins and throwing them back into the ocean. After the shark is pulled aboard the fisherman cuts off the shark fins, this includes the primary and secondary dorsal fins, both pectoral fins, and any other fins of the shark. The sharks are often thrown back into the ocean still alive. Sharks must keep moving to continue getting oxygen supply, as they swim they push water into their mouth and gills allowing them breath. Without their fins, sharks lose the ability to swim properly, and they often sink into the ocean floor where they bleed out, drawn, or become prey to other sea creatures.
The killing of sharks for finning is not only a cruel and senseless act but it impacts the ecosystem and the balance of the ocean. Sharks are at the top of the oceans food chain, removing them causes the whole system to collapse. The extinction of sharks will lead to the loss of many other species, and would cause a severe imbalance for all marine life. If all sharks become extinct it will cause irreparable damage forever.
Sharks have been around for 450 million years and have lived through 5 mass extinctions. Shark finning is becoming such a widespread problem due to companies and fishermen in general trying to cash in on the shark fin soup craze. Shark fin has no flavor, medical purpose or nutritional value, and they are only added for their texture. Because it is so expensive, shark fin soup is eaten as a sign of wealth and the growing economy in Asia is making it more popular and accessible.
The increase and demand for shark fins has depleted the shark population even more, because shark reproduce so slowly the growth in which their numbers are growing doesn’t outnumber their decreasing rates. If this continues, they are expected to go extinct in the next 10 to 20 years. There’s a misconception that sharks are ruthless predators that will attack a human and eat them any chance they get but that’s so far from the truth. Thanks to movies like Jaws and even movies like Sharknado they’re made out to be as this blood hungry, man hater when in reality they don’t really like how we taste that much and if you don’t disturb their ecosystem they’ll leave you alone or even go as far as just maybe poke you with their nose.
Humans are a bigger threat to sharks than sharks are to humans and if we don’t stop now, we will wipe them out. Because of this, several countries have put laws in place to help prevent finning, in a few American states like Hawaii it is illegal to buy or sell shark products, this decreases the demand forcing fishermen to stop finning sharks and focus on catching more profitable fish. Even with all the measures being taken to prevent shark finning in society the number of shark fins are only increasing.
In summary, we need to make some massive changes in our society in the very near future to prevent overfishing, plastic pollution, and shark fining. Not just regulations for the average everyday people, but as well as the million-dollar companies who are responsible for the majority of the pollution and other problems concerning the ocean. I need all the help I can get from our community and federal levels, to let them know that we need to protect our world for future generations.
Public awareness is needed to really make a difference; there are a lot of people that are not aware of what is happening to our ocean and without the mass population, nothing will ever change. How will we explain to our children one day that it was our fault that they have to grow up in a world wrecked by our lack of caring and action.
- “3. DISCUSSION.” International Rice Commission Newsletter Vol. 48, FAO of the UN, www.fao.org/docrep/003/T0502E/T0502E04.htm.
- Alimentarium, Ressources. “The History of Fishing.” Alimentarium, Alimentarium, 6 Jan. 2017, www.alimentarium.org/en/knowledge/history-fishing.
- Association, Press. “Sharks at Risk of Extinction from Overfishing, Say Scientists.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 2 Mar. 2013, www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/mar/02/sharks-risk-extinction-overfishing-scientists.
- Ocean Cleanup. “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” The Ocean Cleanup, www.theoceancleanup.com/great-pacific-garbage-patch/.
- “PART II YCATCH AND DISCARD IMPACTS.” International Rice Commission Newsletter Vol. 48, FAO of the UN, www.fao.org/docrep/003/T4890E/T4890E04.htm.