You Can Help Stop Overfishing
The world’s oceans are so big we thought for a long time that there was nothing humans could do to hurt them. Now we’re facing an imminent and global collapse of our fisheries, projected to happen as early as 2048, thanks to overfishing, wasteful fishing practices and massive overconsumption. But, there are a few key tried-and-tested solutions to overfishing that have been successfully implemented around the world. The trick is to scale these solutions up to a global scale, encouraging countries that have originally been resistant to helping and get them onboard, and supporting countries that don’t have the means to update their fishing policies themselves.
Here is what needs to happen…
Create More Marine Protected Areas
Currently, less than two percent of the world’s oceans are protected in marine parks; and less than one percent of the oceans are protected from any kind of fishing. More no-catch zones must be established to allow fish populations and their ecosystems to recover and replenish themselves to ensure fishing for future generations.
The Marine Conservation Institute wants to increase that number tenfold, and have ten percent of our oceans become Marine Protected Areas by 2020. We would like to see 20 percent of the ocean protected to ensure increased healthy fish stocks in the future.
Trawling drags huge nets through the ocean that scoop up every animal and the ecosystem in its pathway, resulting in massive wasteful bycatch – dead fish are returned to the sea because they weren’t the target fish. We don’t have that kind of sea life to waste. Though there are many programs that focus on decreasing by-catch, and worldwide there are small regions where bottom trawling is banned or limited, these measures aren’t enough. Trawling needs to be banned outright.
Facing depleted fish stocks with an imminent and complete collapse, the Chinese government imposed a trawling ban in Hong Kong’s waters that took effect in December 2012. They did this by buying fishing vessels fitted for trawling, and supporting deckhands who’d be affected by the reduced amount of fish caught. Bans like this in the waters of Alaska, Chile and elsewhere are being fought for by environmental organizations. They need our help!
Worldwide Catch Shares
Catch shares is a system of fishing management that is proven to allow fish stocks to replenish, while saving the livelihoods of fishing communities by preventing a sudden collapse. A total allowable catch is established, using scientific data about the health of fish stocks and the environment in a certain area, and catch shares are licensed out to each fishing business telling them exactly how much of each seafood species they’re allowed to catch.
Using catch shares makes seafood more valuable, meaning a higher, more predictable profit for fishermen, while protecting the environment. As opposed to limiting the time of a fishing season—driving fishermen on a mad dash to make their living in a short time and use trawling or other unsustainable fishing methods to do it—catch shares foster communication and stewardship.
A study of American and British Columbian catch shares systems found that over a decade, the total allowable catch increased 19 percent, by-catch decreased by 66 percent, and fishermen made 68 percent more money while having one-third fewer accidents on the job. And 100 percent of fishing businesses complied, rarely going over their limit. It’s a proven system that needs to be implemented worldwide, and strengthened where it does exist, like the Common Fisheries Program in Europe or on the Pacific Coast of the US and Canada.
Here is What You Can Do:
Educate Everyone and Spread the Word
Show your friends, family, and community Sharkwater and Revolution. Watch the Overfishing topic segment video and discuss solutions.
Join a Campaign and Support Organizations
Here are some organizations that are working towards more sustainable oceans.
- Canadian Wildlife Federation
- Environmental Defense Fund
- Greenpeace Canada
- Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
- World Wildlife Fund
Become an “afishionado” with e-bulletins from the Seafood Choices Alliance and keep up to date with their work.
Make Smart Consumer Choices
Only eat sustainable seafood. Check out the seafood guides in the resources section, and find out what seafood you eat is good for you and the planet, and what isn’t. Here’s a quick cheat sheet to get you started:
- Avoid big fish, which have been overfished for years, like marlin, tuna and shark.
- Buy local. Seafood caught in local North American waters are generally subject to more scrutiny and better regulation than in other parts of the world, plus there is less energy used to store and transport the food. This is especially true for shrimp.
- Go wild, not farmed. Fish farmed in big nets in the ocean pour tons of waste onto the seafood floor, spread disease to wild stocks, and create conflict with local seals, whales, and sharks that are killed when they try to break the nets to eat the fish. It is also an incredibly inefficient way to make food – requiring 6 pounds of wild caught animals to create 1 pound of salmon. This is the biggest problem with eating any kind of Atlantic salmon, which is always farmed in open systems.
- Use seafood guides such as the Seachoice and Seafood Watch pocket guides, iPhone or Android app to make good seafood choices at the grocery store or restaurant. They’re specific to where you live so the information is accurate. Other seafood guides are in the resources list.
- Ask your restaurant if the fish is sustainable, and what seafood they have on their menu that is sustainable. If they have none, choose another option. Just asking them will make them look into sustainable seafood. Your desire creates the economy.