The world’s oceans are so big we thought for a long time that there was nothing we could do to damage them. However, now we are facing an imminent and global collapse of our fisheries, which has been projected to happen as early as 2048. All thanks to overfishing, massive overconsumption and wasteful fishing practices. But, there have been a few solutions to overfishing that have been implemented around the world. However, the main aim is to scale these up to a global scale, and to encourage countries who have originally been resistant to helping and get them on-board. Also, supporting countries that don’t have the means to update their fishing policies themselves.
Here is what needs to happen…
Marine Protected Areas
Create more Marine Protected areas. Currently, less than 2% of the oceans are protected; and less than 1% are protected from any kind of fishing. More zones where there is a no-catch law must be established to allow the damaged fish populations and the ecosystem to recover and replenish themselves to ensure a sustainable future for the oceans. Do you want to see how your country is doing? Check out this interactive map created by the WWF.
The Marine Conservation Institute wants to increase this number to 10% of our oceans being Marine Protected Areas by 2020. However, people believe that we can achieve 20% of the ocean being protected which will also ensure healthy fish stocks for future generations.
As I am sure you are aware trawling ships drag huge nets through the ocean that scoops up everything including animals and the ecosystem. However, not everything the trawlers catch is required therefore this results in a massive wasteful bycatch, ultimately destroying ecosystems. The oceans don’t have this kind of sea life to waste.
Figure 1 shows A mega trawler ship dragging its net through the ocean. source: http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/en/what-we-do/oceans/No-Super-Trawlers/
Thought there are many programs that focus on decreasing bycatch, and worldwide there are regions where bottom trawling is banned or at the very least limited. However, these measures just aren’t enough. Trawling needs to be banned outright. (Read more about trawlers here)
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. Scientific data about the health of fish stocks is used to establish an allowable catch. The data also shows the health of the environments and the catch shares are licensed out to fishing businesses telling them exactly how much they are allowed to catch of a specific species.
Using catch shares has benefits as well, for example it makes seafood more valuable. Meaning a higher, more predictable profit for fisherman, while also protecting the environment at the same time. This is a much more sustainable method as opposed to having a limited fishing season. With a fishing season, it makes the fisherman have mad dashes to make their living in a short time and as a result they use unsustainable fishing methods to do it. Catch shares foster communication and stewardship.
Figure 2 shows the use of catch shares around the world. source: https://breachingtheblue.com/2012/04/10/utilization-of-catch-shares-by-regions/
A recent study of the American and British Columbian catch shares system found that over a decade, the total allowable catch increased to 19%, and bycatch decreased by 66 percent. Also, fisherman made 68% more money while also having 1/3 of the accidents they normally have on the job. Furthermore, 100% of fishing businesses complied, and rarely went over their limit. It is a proven system that needs to be implemented worldwide, and strengthened where it already exists. Like the Common Fisheries Program in Europe or on the Pacific coast of the US and Canada.
Here is what you can do…
Join a campaign and support organisations.
Here are some organisations that are working towards more sustainable oceans:
- Canadian Wildlife Federation
- Environmental Defence Fund
- Greenpeace Canada
- Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
- World Wildlife Fund
Make smart consumer choices
Only eat sustainable seafood. Here’s a quick cheat sheet to get you started:
Avoid big fish, which have been overfished for years, like marlin, tuna and shark.
Eat small fish – 90% of the big fish are gone, they’re important for the ecosystems, and they’re also very often full of toxic contaminants like lead.
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.
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.
Canadian Wildlife Federation: Your Connection with Wildlife. (2017). [online] Cwf-fcf.org. Available at: http://www.cwf-fcf.org/en/ [Accessed 19 Feb. 2017].
Greenpeace Canada. (2017). [online] Greenpeace Canada. Available at: http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/home/ [Accessed 19 Feb. 2017].
Home | Environmental Defence Fund. (2017). [online] Edf.org. Available at: https://www.edf.org/ [Accessed 19 Feb. 2017].
Home » Marine Conservation Institute. (2017). [online] Marine Conservation Institute. Available at: https://marine-conservation.org/ [Accessed 19 Feb. 2017].
No Super Trawlers. (2017). [online] Greenpeace Australia Pacific. Available at: http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/en/what-we-do/oceans/No-Super-Trawlers/ [Accessed 19 Feb. 2017].
Overfishing Solutions – Revolution. (2017). [online] Revolution. Available at: http://therevolutionmovie.com/index.php/open-your-eyes/overfishing/solutions/ [Accessed 19 Feb. 2017].
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society – Home. (2017). [online] Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Available at: http://www.seashepherd.org/ [Accessed 19 Feb. 2017].
Society, N. (2017). Marine Protected Areas — National Geographic. [online] National Geographic. Available at: http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/take-action/marine-protected-areas/ [Accessed 19 Feb. 2017].
Utilization of Catch Shares by Regions. (2017). [online] Breaching the Blue. Available at: https://breachingtheblue.com/2012/04/10/utilization-of-catch-shares-by-regions/ [Accessed 19 Feb. 2017].
WWF – Endangered Species Conservation | World Wildlife Fund. (2017). [online] World Wildlife Fund. Available at: http://www.worldwildlife.org/ [Accessed 19 Feb. 2017].