We are encroaching breeding grounds
Diminishing fish populations is a huge and complex topic. It is very interesting here on the western coast of Canada. Fishing is largely sustainable because there is such an abundance, however much of the sustainable local catch is hugely expensive because it is in high demand in overseas markets.
One issue I am interested in is the population of salmon that the resident Orca whale populations depend on. It is all they will eat! From what I have observed, shortages of salmon are caused mainly by habitat destruction more than over-fishing, due to encroaching on spawning streams. One of the ships I manage is a large fisheries research trawler that the scientists use, to gauge fish populations and whether they are in good health. Based on that, we are able to determine when the fishing season can open and close. Fisheries science is another very complicated matter and it tends to be a sore spot and can get very political here very quickly. We experienced that with the herring fishery here last fall, which got quite ugly. One group of people wanted to conserve fish, while another wanted to open a commercial herring fishery. The point is that there are many factors that influence fish populations. Too many predators and encroaching on breeding grounds being two equally large problems to address.
From Mr E. Robinson
Shipping operations manager based in Canada
Be vegetarian, as an option
Over-fishing is an unsustainable practice that is reducing the breeding stock to dangerously low levels, possibly resulting in extinction. However, there are sustainable fishing practices as well. Having said that, as a health coach, I do not recommend one stops eating fish altogether. Everyone’s dietary needs and lifestyle is unique. Undoubtedly, fish is one of the best low calorie, high protein foods. It is rich in most nutrients the population lacks in general. It is called ‘brain food’ due to high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil. Fortunately, if you’re not a fish lover, or you are vegetarian or choose not to consume fish due to environmental reasons, there are a large number of options out there. Try tofu, tempeh, seaweed, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, spinach/kale/leafy greens, Algae Omega 3 supplements. These are all good sources of Omega 3 fatty acids. For your protein intake, peas, quinoa, nuts and nut butters, beans, chickpeas, hemp, sesame/sunflower/popeye seeds, and again tempeh, tofu, chia seeds are all rich sources. Depending on one’s individual needs, it is not difficult to omit fish completely and reach dietary requirements by vegetarian means alone.
From Ms Pallavi Kumar Health coach based in California, US
Go local, don’t be picky It is advisable that local fish species be chosen over the imported ones, this is a solution to global overfishing. If you are a fish eater, my advice is to eat locally available fish species, which are in abundance. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimated that in 2002, 72 per cent of the world’s marine fish stocks were being harvested faster than they could reproduce. According to a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, over 70 per cent of the world’s fish species are either fully exploited or depleted. A worldwide sharp increase of destructive fishing methods cause the destruction of marine mammals and entire ecosystems that they are a part of. FAO reports suggest that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing worldwide appears to be increasing as fishermen seek to avoid stricter rules in many places in response to shrinking catches and declining fish stocks.There is no excuse to overfish in order to get specific fish for its specific nutritional value. All fish are similar in their nutritious value. The difference in their nutritious value is almost insignificant and cannot justify one being picky and having preferences. The way different fish species taste is mostly because of the method they are cooked or prepared in and does not depend on the species itself. Another big advantage when buying local fish during its season is that it will be cheaper. I have noticed that people don’t think about the fish as important creatures since most of us don’t see fish alive, instead we see them on our plates ready to be eaten or in the fish market. Promoting visits to aquariums and spreading information about endangered species, may help raise awareness. Perhaps discussions on this topic through media may also change the situation positively because if the situation continues, overfishing is going to affect the global food security in the long run since by 2050 we will need to feed 9.7 billion people.
From Dr. Youssef Al Saadi
Food scientist and biologist based in UAE
Sustainable fishing for the future
We have lived in a bubble so far. Humans have often wrongly believed that the sea has an inexhaustible supply of fish. The UAE in particular has a large appetite for fish, with many species being taken out well beyond sustainable levels. Eating abundant local species would be the most environmentally considerate way to consume fish. Agreed that certain types of fish are chosen over others for their superiority in dietary value, but overfishing and pushing them to the brink of extinction is not the right answer. There is no point in overfishing and being misguided to believe a temporary abundance of fish is high in nutritional value if that would lead to a sudden depletion of this particular fish species altogether. This would only leave consumers with no choice but to eat fish with a lower dietary value. However, if the imbalance is recognised and corrected before the extinction takes place, there would be no need to overfish them at all. Let’s take blue fin tuna as an example. Blue fin tuna is highly endangered, on the brink of extinction; there are better alternatives, such as the yellow fin tuna, which could be eaten instead.
By choosing to eat sustainable fish, we can lower the demand for overfished species. That would help us to rebuild and safeguard species that are currently suffering unnatural levels of endangerment. If these fish are sustainably fished to begin with, a lot of environmental catastrophes can be prevented, along with the benefit of a higher consumer satisfaction in the long run. The greatest threat to our planet is our belief that someone else will come along and save it. Each individual must take a step or make an educated decision, and it begins with consuming sustainable fish.
From Ms Simran Sampat Environmental journalist and medical student based in Hungary
Reverse the damage, be cognisant
Overfishing is a global issue but its effects are still reversible. Human beings need to wake up and act now before it is too late. When fish stocks decline, fisheries become commercially unviable, the damaged stock struggles to survive in lower numbers compared to their pre-fishing level, but these fishes haven’t yet reached biological extinction. Most of the destruction can still be reversed. In some situations it might take a decade, while in others it might take a few hundred years. Yet eventually we can ensure productive and healthy oceans again, many efforts in different parts of the world have proved so. We do however need to act strongly, before we cross the point of no return. It is fair to say that individually we cannot do too much to solve this global issue all by ourselves. We need political and legal systems to come into place to strengthen national and international laws that govern commercial industries dependent on fishing and fishing as a sport. A few years ago many people started buying dolphin-friendly tuna. Now the time has come to buy ocean friendly tuna. People need to be informed about how overfishing harms the oceanic ecosystem by creating serious gaps in certain food chains thus causing an imbalance. Many of us don’t know that this is even an issue, and while this is a global problem every local situation is different. I think it is important that when you choose to eat fish, you should make sure you know what you eat, and pick the species with the lowest impact. There are many fish guides in bookstores and information is widely available on internet. And once you are aware of the danger that fish population around the world are facing, let others know. Spread the word. From Mr Mustafa Al Zubaidi
Student based in Gothenburg, Sweden