How Big of a Problem is Overfishing?
What do cod, tuna, halibut, swordfish, and mackerel all have
in common? Yes, they are fish, but recently they also have become a cause for
concern. As the world population increases, so does the demand for seafood. Cod,
tuna, and others are favorite catches for fishermen and favorite dishes for many
people. Since the oceans cover such a vast area of Earth, it was once believed
that they could provide an endless supply of seafood. Now, recent studies show
that the oceans are being overfished and the delicate ecosystems that exist throughout
the oceans are being disrupted.
In May, Canadian researchers suggested that globally, the
oceans have lost more than 90 percent of the large predatory fishes which include
cod and bluefin tuna. How might this affect ocean ecosystems? One theory says
that overfishing the top predators could cause "dead zones" - areas of complete
ecosystem collapse, where microbes fill the void left by fish and invertebrates.
Dead zones already have been found in the Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay, and
the Baltic and Adriatic seas.
Many scientists are somewhat reluctant to speculate on exactly
how overfishing could affect marine environments because so little is actually
known about marine ecosystems. Scientists do agree that overfishing is not the
only thing causing a decline in fish populations. Pollution and overdevelopment
of coastal land also affects the health of the oceans. However, one thing is
certain, if fish populations fall below critical mass, they could lose the ability
to reproduce and species would die out. Millions of people who rely on the fishing
industry to pay their bills would be out of work.
What are the solutions? Several steps are
being taken to protect the big game fish. The Canadian government currently enforces
a moratorium on cod fishing and has placed the Atlantic cod on their endangered
species list. Throughout the world, more fish are being raised on farms and quotas
on the number of fish being caught are being enforced.
Fishing industry officials insist that researchers have overestimated
the number of fish harvested and that these reports are attempts to put them
out of business. Which group of people is correct? Is there a solution that would
meet the needs of both the ocean's ecosystems and the fishing industry?
Research more information about overfishing, strategies
to improve the diversity of the oceans, and the fishing industry. Use the information
you gather to come up with a plan to sustain the ocean's fishes and protect the
jobs of people who work in the fishing industry. Outline your plan in a brochure