Although fishing has been one of the most important factors in human nutrition since the past, it has been damaging the ecosystem and environment very much due to the development of technology, the increase in human population and unconscious hunting. Why is fishing bad? You can find further information in this article.
Major Threats to Our Seas and the Role of Fisheries
When viewed from space, most of our world seems to be covered with a blue cover. The seas that give this color cover about two-thirds of the earth’s surface and provide half of the oxygen needed for our lives. Below the waves are the highest mountains and the longest waterfalls in the world. 80% of the world’s life comes from living in these waters, with a wide variety of species ranging from plankton to giant whales. This life, a depth of meters, has remained a mystery for mankind for centuries due to endless distances and harsh conditions.
Reaching the richness at the bottom of the seas was possible only a few centuries ago. Today, as with everything else, the technology has removed borders on exploring the seas. However, as the borders disappeared, detrimental destruction started with the human hand at every point reached. The area that takes the biggest damage from this destruction is the seas.
- Industrial Fishing
Industrial fishing boats are able to track and capture large shoals of fish using powerful sonars. In many places, this modern ‘gold rush’ is far above the ability of the seas to renew itself, and fish stocks are depleting rapidly. Since 90 percent of the big fish disappear, the new victim in this wild hunt is now small fish.
- Destructive Fishing
The amount of waste generated by modern fishing is enormous. For example, 90 percent of fish caught in nets in shrimp fishing boats are thrown back into the sea. The number of whales or dolphins that die each year is over 300,000. Approximately 100,000 albatross dying when attached to long fishing hooks. Turtles, seals, and sharks are also victims of random, unconscious fishing practices. Bottom trolls are also the cruelest killers of marine life. Just like a bulldozer for the sake of a few fish, they crush centuries-old corals, sweep away all the life on them, and destroy the sea mountains that are as much a life as a rain forest.
- Pirate Fishing
Fishermen in the north have started to hunt in the waters of other countries, such as Africa and the Pacific, as fish stocks in their regions are depleted. The amount of fish caught by the largest trawler in the world equals the amount of fish that 7000 local small fishermen can catch in a year. Pirate fishing boats, hunting without a license or without their permits, steal incredible amounts of fish, ruin marine life and ruin coastal economies.
- Fish farming
Fish farms, or aquaculture, have often been offered as a solution to overfishing, but this certainly does not reflect the truth. The shrimp culture production industry is one of the most destructive, unsustainable and unfair industries in the world. Events such as the massacre of mangroves (a tropical plant), the destruction caused by fishing, the murder and the slaughter of local lands have been reported by human rights and environmental groups in many countries. The hunting of four kilograms of fish from nature as bait to produce one kilogram of salmon is another example of the meaninglessness of fish farms.
- Climate Change
The seas are warming, the glaciers are melting, the currents are changing direction and the sea level is gradually rising. The main nutritional sources of marine life (plankton and krills) have already been drawn from the whole food chain and have been severely affected by heat change. Many corals were left to turn white and die. In 1998, 16 percent of the world’s corals were severely damaged, reefs in South Asia and the Indian Ocean lost half of their corals.
Marine pollution can occur in various ways. The best-known example of this is the pollution caused by tanker accidents. Pollution caused by this type of accidents, although they are at the top of the newspaper news, has a very small place in the problem caused by chemicals, oil, plastics, sewage, industrial discharges, conscious discharges, mining and general garbage dumped in the seas. For example, plastic dissolves in water only within a thousand years. It is often found attached to the skins or stomachs of birds, fish, marine mammals. On the other hand, almost half of the pollution in the sea occurs as a result of land activities.
Oceans in Danger: The Damages of Fishing
The seas are the greatest indication that humanity has failed to maintain the common values of this planet. Almost all states of the world agree that fish should be protected, but they cannot agree on how to protect fish. The unanimity required to make decisions at the United Nations allows a handful of countries to prevent the seas from being protected. Currently, 85% of the world’s fish reserves have been fully exploited, damaged and started to decline.
Historically, the extent to which fishing is damaging to nature can be seen more clearly. Compared to the records of 1889, it is seen that fish feeding from the seabed has decreased by 94% in England and Wales today. So anyone who can take a snorkel and dive to the coast of England should be prepared to meet an underwater desert here. The number of tuna, one of the most consumed fish in the world, has been decreasing rapidly since 1993. The population of cod has been decreasing since the 1960s.
Because of the decrease in the number of fish, the fishermen are constantly turning away from home. In addition, the newly developed fishing methods are also very harmful to the environment. Scavengers are killing all life on the ocean floor. Take fishing in Costa Rica. In the last decade, fishermen hunting legal fish here accidentally killed 402 sharks, 625 stingray, and 1348 turtles.
Of course, it is necessary to say that these turtles feed on jellyfish. When they died, jellyfish hit the shores. In some areas, nine out of every ten great sharks have been killed. Big sharks eat stingrays. When the population of shark eating stingrays was not sufficient, the number of stingrays increased and these stingrays began to consume sea crustaceans, which everyone liked to see very quickly. Today, fishermen are increasingly moving south to find new fish reserves.
But the damage we do to fish and marine life is not limited to hunting. The vast majority of the world’s rivers carry so much waste to the seas that biological life is almost finished at the junction of these rivers with the sea. The cliffs that are home to fishes, mossy areas and many others have still come uninhabitable due to pollution. Fish accumulate poison in their bodies because of the waste they eat. Due to the climate change caused by humans, the oceans are warming, which affects the distribution of fish in the seas.
In addition, the carbon dioxide gas, which causes the world to warm up, also dissolves in ocean water. This makes water less convenient for fish to live. This change may seem chemically too small. However, historically, it has a huge impact. It is not known how marine life will react to these changes, but some scientists predict that coral reefs will disappear as we know it. This means that the number of sea snails, the main dish of many fish, will decrease rapidly.
However, there are some developments that may cause us to be optimistic. During the Rio World Summit in 1992, world states were invited to protect fish reserves. Since then little progress has been made. In 2011, the US recovered 6 fish species in the waters. This was brought about by the regulations brought to fishing.
Preserved Sea Areas is another important development in recent years. Former US President George W. Bush completely banned fishing in an area having the size of Spain in the Pacific Ocean. England has also created the world’s largest Protected Sea Area in the Indian Ocean. This area is 545 thousand square kilometers. Last week, Australia also announced that it would create a large protected area. British controlled Atlantic waters will also be protected soon.
Fiji wants 30% of its waters to be protected areas. Other European countries follow the example of England and are slowly preparing to create their own protection zones. Finally, by 2020, world states agreed to turn 10% of the oceans into conservation. At the moment, this rate is only 1 percent. For example, moving protected areas need to be identified to protect migratory fish.
States will have to spend time and money to control these designated protected areas. While the sea is bitter, we will be able to continue to eat fish easily thanks to the fish farms. Today 25% of the fish eaten in the UK comes from farms. In China, this rate is 80%. However, the fish breeding industry also has many problems. For example, carnivorous fish such as salmon eat more than their own weight. These fish will be caught in nature must be bait.
If you give plant-based dishes to a salmon, not meat, omega 3 and oils are not present in the meat. They are not healthy enough and they are not tasty. Now biologists are trying to produce special omega 3 pills to ensure that omega 3 is found in the meat of vegetarian salmon. It is almost certain that a second decision will be made on the protection of fish from the second Rio World summit. However, the decisions of the United Nations can only be effective to some extent. Conservation of fish requires more than decisions and promises.
Negative Effects of Fishermen on the Sea
The oceans are the main areas where natural resources are rapidly consumed. Climate change, pollution, acidification of the oceans, and industrial fishing both destroy ocean ecosystems and put communities out of their livelihood and food from small-scale fishing. According to research by Olivier De Schutter of Theecologist.org, shipbuilding and high incentives for diesel fuels in general between 1970 and 1990 led to a rapid increase in industrial fishing fleets. The growth rate of the fishing fleet and capacity has become dizzying by increasing 8 times the rapid increase in land-agriculture in the same period.
As a result, fish stocks in the oceans, viewed as “inexhaustible”, have come to extinction. Currently, the total fishing fleet capacity in the world is at least twice the amount of fish that can be caught annually for sustainable fishing. It is possible to talk about a vicious circle in industrial fishing. As the number of fish decreases, ships use the trawl method, destroying the seabed plant ecosystems, which are the food, home and protected area of the fish. As they disappear, the number of fish is decreasing. The smaller the number of fish, the deeper the trolls, the more “untouched” places are thrown. At this point, according to Schutter, ”illegal, unregulated and unregistered” fishing activities must be stopped, this is definite and urgent.
However, according to Schutter, even such a situation will not solve the problem. The problem is in the industrial fishing system. And “suspending” fishing for a while is not the solution, because close to 12 million small-scale fishermen around the world constitute the sector that keeps many communities alive, especially in poor areas. Again, according to Schutter, the potential harm of small-scale fisheries to the environment is lower than for industrial fisheries. Reminding that 15% of the animal protein consumed in the world is taken from fish, Schutter said, “It may bring more and cheaper fish to our industrial fishing platter, but it does this by damaging ecosystems and communities. Under license and right of use agreements, it is not audited by large firm fishery companies that parcel the oceans, just like multinational companies collecting agricultural land in other countries.
5 Countries Responsible for Offshore Fishing
Offshore fishing leads to the extinction of many fish species and causes the natural ecosystem to lose its balance. Moreover, 84 percent of the fishery in the high seas is carried out by five countries.
The oceans were always areas where fishing is made. However, some regions are much more active than others. Researchers took over and watched over seventy thousand fishing boats. And the global fishing activity map was reached. This map reveals how much fishing affects the seas and which countries are responsible for these impacts. One of the actions that left a big footprint in the world is undoubtedly fishing. In the oceans covering two-thirds of the planet’s surface, industrial fishing was carried out in an area of 55 percent in 2016.
Data obtained from ships that are monitored by electronic monitoring systems, logbooks, and established observers have contributed greatly to the creation of this map. In addition, automatic identification facilities have been in place to prevent commercial-scale vessels from crashing for about 15 years. These radios also provided useful information in the monitoring process. The survey covers the period between 2012 and 2016 and was created by examining a total of 22 billion AIS positions. In particular, the regions with activity were identified as South America, West Africa coast and Northeast Atlantic Ocean.
So, which countries are responsible for ocean fishing? Five countries appear at this point. These countries are Spain, China, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan. These countries are the key countries in the process of tracking the footprints of fisheries. Because they account for eighty-five percent of ocean fishing. International conservation efforts can be reshaped after this research.
The New Stop of Capital in the Seas: Fish Farms
Fish and seafood are increasingly demanding and nutritionally important. With the increase in the fishing fleet and the fishing effort per boat since the 1950s, the production volume of global fishing has increased gradually. The transition from small-scale traditional coastal fisheries to industrial fisheries has played an important role in increasing the amount of hunting (Pauly et al., 1998). In the last fifty years, fish supply worldwide grew by an average of 3.2% annually, surpassing the global population growth of 1.6% annually. Per capita, fish consumption was 9.9 kg in the 1960s and reached 19.2 kg in 2012 (FAO, 2014).
In this process, traditional fishing on the shore in the past was not content with the amount of fish that can be caught at close distances to the shore but spread in three stages: (i) horizontally to the shore, (ii) vertical to deeper than shallow meters, and (iii) varietal from smaller fish to larger and less consumed species (not yet hunted as other commercial species), in other words, it has led fisheries to move down the “marine food chain” (Pauly et al., 1998).
However, in spite of the increasing fishing effort, the amount of fish obtained from the total catch of all species in the large marine ecosystems has decreased since the late 1980s and the amount of fish that can be hunted globally began to decline (Pauly et al., 2003). In many regions and various fish species, some species are completely destroyed or endangered as a result of human-induced causes such as overfishing and pollution. Today, 31.4% of all fish stocks globally face overfishing, while 58.1% are caught at the border (FAO, 2016).
With the expansion strategies that lead to more open seas in fisheries, deeper fisheries, seas of different countries and other fish species, the fisheries industry has been able to carry out its ecological limits for different periods of time by moving its ecological limits to different locations which could both produce cheaper and encounter problems. This spread has in fact led to the postponement of the ecological, social and economic damages to other regions, not to exceed the ecological limits. Globally, irrespective of the reproductive and self-renewal capacity of various fish stocks, hunting was carried out far beyond the boundaries of both the number and species of the ecosystem. At the same time, irreparable habitat degradation was caused in areas where eggs and juvenile fish were found at the seafloor due to equipment such as bottom trawlers.
In this context, aquaculture and fish farming are presented as a solution to the collapsing fish stocks. Aquaculture is mainly composed of three sub-sectors: (i) Intensive fish farming in the seas – external aquaculture, ie fish farms with floating cages in the sea; (ii) freshwater aquaculture – carp, eel, trout breeding, etc. in rivers, lakes or indoor ponds; and (iii) shellfish farming – shrimps, mussels, clams, oysters and the like. Increased consumption of aquaculture throughout the world (this increase is the result of the argument that fish consumption is healthy and marketing strategies to increase demand, as well as the increasing world population), and the increasing capacity of fisheries, leads to significant global growth in aquaculture in recent decades. Especially in developed countries, for example in Europe, annual seafood consumption reaches 24.5 kg per capita (EUMOFA, 2015).
Within these global dynamics, aquaculture has become one of the fastest-growing food sectors in the world with an average annual volume increase of 8.6% between 1980 and 2012 (FAO, 2014). Aquaculture production which was less than 1 million tons annually in the early 1950s was reported as 90.4 million tons in 2012. 66,6 million tons of this amount corresponds to the amount of fish produced for direct human consumption (FAO, 2014: 20). The global growth of the aquaculture sector was particularly high in the 1980-1990 period – at a time when the peak in hunting and the decline in hunting began and capital accumulation intensified at a very high rate of 10.8%; in the following decades, it was slightly lower but still significant (9.5% between 1990-2000 and 6.2% between 2000-2012).
When we look at the ratio of total demand for hunting and aquaculture, fish farming which corresponds to 13.4% of total fish supply in 1990 – increasing production with various social, ecological, economic and political dynamics and incentive policies – is almost equal to that of hunting in 2012. FAO (World Food and Agriculture Organization) predicts that in 2030 the proportion of aquaculture will increase to 62%, and that fish produced from aquaculture and introduced into the market will gradually replace the fish obtained from hunting (FAO, 2014: III).
At this point, it is essential to take a deep look at the question of what, how and for whom fish farms, which are increasingly gaining political and economic importance and providing food for mankind, provide an alternative. While the strategies foresee to stimulate the aquaculture sector focus on the need for growth, they do not adequately address the sources of this demand or what development model different actors prefer, and who controls food.