Overfishing our Oceans?!
Today we watched a good bit of the PBS documentary Empty Oceans, Empty Nets. Feel free to click around the movie web site if you want want to explore the issues further. What were the main points?
1. The Problem. Yes, we seem to be overfishing the oceans. In the last 4 years, numerous articles have come out predicting the collapse of most commercial fisheries by 2050. If you have 5 minutes, read this very current article cleverly titled, “Aquacalypse Now: The End of Fish.” This brief public service announcement give some reasons WHY this is happening and what we might do about it.
2. Causes. As mentioned in the PSA above, many of the “industrial” fishing methods used by large vessels or factory ships have the potential to remove fish from our oceans in massive quantities. Check out the animations at this Monterery Bay Aquarium web site of bottom-trawling, longlining, and purse-seine fishing techniques. Additionally, each of these method capture different types of bycatch (bykill). The movie we watched stated that for every pound of shrimp caught in the US fisheries, there may be five pounds of bycatch. Sometimes, it may include endangered animals like sea turtles.
3. Solutions: We saw several solutions throughout the film.
- Since this is a commons issue (oceans fisheries), governments can regulate fisheries by setting quotas in their territorial waters. Anything involving species migrating across oceans and/or beyond those 200 miles offshore has to be addressed by international treaty, but enforcement becomes problematic.
- Governments can establish marine protected areas (MPAs), marine reserves, or marine sanctuaries in their territorial waters. Check this link for the US system of MPAs. These are safe areas for fish to hide and breed as fishing there is usually banned.
- Consumers can create more demand for fish taken from sustainable fisheries. If you care about making a personal impact by your seafood choices then you can download a pocket guide from this web site. There is also an app for mobile phones/ iPhones at that link.
Much of this is covered in your text, but I think it is hard to really appreciate the impact of these commercial scale fishing methods unless you SEE them. You are always welcome to borrow the DVD from me…
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