Many marine ecologists believe that the greatest threat to our oceans today is overfishing. Our appetites for fish and our efficiency at catching fish is exceeding the capabilities of the fisheries to replenish. We’re simply catching fish faster than they can reproduce.
It’s estimated that we’ve taken approximately 90% of the large fish (such as tuna, swordfish, marlin, cod, halibut, skate, and flounder) from the sea already. Off New England, cod were once so plentiful that boats had trouble pushing through them. Now the cod are nearly gone. Other overfished species include sharks, bluefin tuna and many kinds of West Coast rockfish. When one kind of fish is no longer plentiful, fishermen must move on to new species. Monkfish and sharks were once discarded as “trash fish,” but now they’re valuable—and are themselves overfished! Overfishing has also forced fishermen to look deeper for new species like orange roughy and Chilean seabass.
Overfishing results in profound changes in our oceans, not only affecting what’s on our dinner plates, but whole ecosystems. As we are fishing down the food web, the increasing effort needed to catch commercially viable fish takes its toll on marine mammals, sharks, sea birds and non-commercially viable fish.
Overfishing is also starving large marine mammals like whales and dolphins. Our appetite for fish is so large that we’re also depleting the ocean of its smaller prey fish and krill that marine mammals like dolphins, seals and whales depend on. A new report (PDF) from the group Oceana reports that “scrawny predators – dolphins, sea bass and even whales have turned up on coastlines all over the world.” Much of the fish we’re catching is going to feed fish in fish farms or or used in fish oil.
So, what can you do? First, learn more about the issue, by checking out some of the links below. Next, make informed decisions about what fish you choose to eat and make more sustainable seafood choices. For example, by choosing locally wild caught fish you help encourage sustainable levels of fishing.
Fortunately, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has created some nifty little downloadable guides to make more sustainable seafood choices.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Pocket Guide is broken down into 6 regional guides. Pick where you live or travel and download the guide for suggestions on choosing more sustainable fish to eat.
For example, the best fish choices here in Hawaii are:
Arctic Char (farmed)
Aku/Skipjack tuna (HI troll/pole, handline)
Barramundi (US farmed)
Crab: Dungeness, Kona (Australia)
Pollock (Alaska wild)+
Salmon (Alaska wild)+
Sardines: Pacific (US)
Scallops: Bay (farmed)
(HI harpoon, handline)*
Striped Bass (farmed)
Tilapia (US farmed)
(HI troll/pole, handline)
Here in Hawaii, we should avoid eating:
Aku/Skipjack tuna (imported)
Ehu/Red snapper (MHI)
Kajiki/Blue marlin (imported)
Mahi mahi/Dolphinfish (imported)
Onaga/Ruby snapper (MHI)
‘Opakapaka/Pink snapper (MHI)
Salmon (farmed, including Atlantic)
Shrimp (imported farmed or wild)
Sturgeon, Caviar (imported wild)
Yellowtail (Australia or Japan, farmed)
Download the full Sustainable Seafood Guide for Hawaii to get more details.
Check out more in the links below:
Sustainable Seafood Choices
Make More Sustainable Seafood Choices
Overfishing: A Threat to Marine Biodiversity
Overfishing Imperils Ocean Life
Overfishing: A Global Disaster
As windsurfers, we play in and on the water. As water men and women we should appreciate the value of this resource more than the regular public and do our part to educating ourselves about ocean issues and do our part. To learn more about saving the ocean, visit SaveTheOcean.Wordpress.com.