Billions of people depend on fish for their food requirement. Also, there are a lot of people for whom fishing is a source of income. With the growing population, the demand for fish is also going up. This means that on a daily basis, fish are being captured from their marine habitats. Fishing is already a multimillion-dollar industry and a thriving business for many. So, we have technology helping men dive deeper and catch more fish. But are we ‘Overfishing’? If yes, then what are the effects of overfishing?
What is Overfishing?
Human beings capture fish for food. But fish also reproduce. Simply put, overfishing occurs when the number of fish being caught is more than the number of fish being reproduced and it is one of the ways humans are effecting ecosystems. With the increase in demand, catching more fish to feed the demand seems obvious. However, we need to be aware of the impact it could have.
General Effects of Overfishing
For many years, human beings have considered oceans as a never-ending source of fish. But it wouldn’t do to ignore that fish, like every other resource on earth, are finite.
If the number of fish go down significantly, fishing as a viable option of livelihood is no longer possible or profitable. This could mean closing down of fisheries and loss of business for the stakeholders.
Risk of losing a food source
This is an obvious impact of overfishing. With the number of fish in the oceans dwindling, one day, there might be no fish left for human consumption. This is significant since many people east fish as their staple food.
Polluting the marine environment
With a lot of fishermen out in the ocean, oil spills and other pollutants cause damage to the marine life. Many fish die in the ocean as a result of this.
Sometimes, fishermen lose their nets inside the oceans. Fish inadvertently get caught in these nets and die inside the oceans. With such a large number of fishing activities being carried out, the number of fish dying due to ghost fishing could be significant.
Even though worrying, the above effects are only the tip of the iceberg. The effects of overfishing on the marine ecosystem are given below.
Effects of overfishing on the marine ecosystem
Scientists believe that the hazard to the marine ecosystem by overfishing is cause for more concern than other obvious threats like environmental pollution.
Risk to the marine biodiversity
Unsustainable and unchecked fishing practices have driven many fish stocks to the verge of collapse. Several species of fish with commercial value such as the Atlantic Tuna fish are now an endangered species on the verge of extinction. Extinction of any living species on the earth causes and imbalance and has a huge impact on the ecosystem.
The following list gives the names of some of the species of fish have been put under danger of extinction due to overfishing. There are many others, too.
- Orange roughy
- Atlantic sardines
- Skipjack and Yellowfin tuna
- Atlantic and Pacific cod
Alteration of the food chain
Unchecked overfishing harms the physical environment in the oceans and breaks or distorts the food chain. This impacts all the living organisms in the food chain in some way or the other. The consequences of this disproportion could be widespread, and not good!
Effect on the well-being of coral reef
Coral reefs are an important element of the marine ecosystem. Damage to coral reefs has severe impacts on the ocean life and the effects are virtually irreversible.
Algae is a part of the marine life and is essential for the balance in the marine ecosystem since many fish and sea creatures feed on algae. However, with declining number of fish, there is a probability of disproportionate algae growth which can be harmful for the oceans.
The way ahead
The problem of overfishing is not easy. But the risks involved are too high to ignore the problem. Below are some of the solutions to check unregulated fishing. This is already being done, but the rules should be enforced strictly if we really want to see a change.
- Obviously, efforts need to be taken to restore the marine life balance and to curb the effects of overfishing. All fishing should be appropriately regulated by the governments.
- Where fishing is the only source of livelihood, alternate rehabilitation of the fishermen should be carried out.
- Educating everyone involved can also go a long way in bringing down overfishing.
- Protected areas should be setup in the ocean where fishing is prohibited.