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Our world is one of water, for up to 70% of the world’s surface is covered with oceans, seas and other bodies of water. Though these water bodies may look like a calm empty void, below the surface they hold life and mysteries one could barely imagine. However, the lives of these fishes and other marine animals are being rapidly depleted by the earth’s top predator; man.
Mankind has evolved over the years and developed many survivals skills but it seems as if the very skillsets that we have learned could lead to our destruction. This can be seen in the way that we overfish our oceans. For centuries, millions have turned to the ocean as a source of income and livelihood through fishing, while billions use the ocean as a source of food. Think about it, isn’t the ocean’s ability to provide food for the billions of people alive today simply amazing? However, in consequence to providing food for the world’s growing population, extensive commercial fishing has rapidly depleted the ocean’s fish population, opening up the concern that we are wreaking havoc on the ocean’s ecosystem through overfishing (Shakouri. B. etal. 2010).
Overfishing can be defined as the catching of fish more than the population can replace through natural reproduction (WWF, n.d.). Simply put, overfishing causes fishes to be unable to sustain their own life cycles. Though environmentalists are now emphasizing the impacts of overfishing, the beginning of modern era of exploiting the ocean’s fishes dated back to the 11th century (Fagan, B. 2017).
This period in our history brought about many developments in fishing technology which allowed fishermen to fish in new areas for longer times for larger hauls. Simply, the development of this time allowed the fishermen to wreak havoc on the fish population of one area until it had dwindled then move on to newer and more prosperous areas and this continues unto this day as the technology has been further developed. (Greenpeace. 2011.) Centuries later, after the rapid rise of large scale industrial fishing operation, it was widely acknowledged that globally fish stocks were being overexploited and on a decline but industry makers continued to fish anyway (Worms and Myers, 2003).
Today, data shows that up to 32% of the world’s fish stocks had been exploited beyond the sustainable limit; triple the amount during the 1970s, and is still continually rising! (FAO, 2013) Consequently, mankind’s necessity for fish as part of their diet, led the World Conservation Union to add species such as the Southern Bluefin Tuna and Northern Cod to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) ‘red list’ as critically endangered species (Sumaila et al. 2006).
But even despite the endangerment of not just a few species of fish but fish population in its entirety, and the collapse of many major world fisheries, the expansion of fishing efforts have continued without a sign of abatement. With the global decrease of the fish populations being apparent, it sparks the question, can we continue to exploit the ocean for food without changing it forever?
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