Commercial Fishing and Our Oceans
“We all have a romantic vision of the ocean being a vast, limitless territory open to all. The truth is nearly 70 per cent of all fish stocks are considered fully exploited, over-exploited or severely depleted. The ocean's ability to replenish fish has been outstripped by the industry's ability to catch fish.”- Annabel Graham, Chinese activist and author.
There was once a time where the oceans were pure and fish were plentiful. However, that was quite some time ago. Today, the oceans are filthy and filled with more toxins than fish. It is strange to think that since the 1950s, the birth of commercial fishing, that our oceans have almost been completely destroyed. Through industry-based fishing, whole ecosystems have been almost completely devastated; several species that have once been abundant have now been placed on the endangered species list. If commercial fishing is not subdued within the next couple of years, then the potential collapse of commercial fishing, and our ocean’s ecosystems, will be upon us.
What is overfishing you may ask? Well to put it quite simply, it is the act of excessive fishing, thus causing certain types of fish to become scarce. According to the US Commission on Ocean Policy, “25% to 30% of the world’s major fish stocks are overexploited” and “of the nation’s 267 major fish stocks…roughly 20% are either already overfished, experiencing overfishing, or approaching an overfished condition” (Jeantheau). If that doesn’t seem troublesome enough, the act of overfishing has initiated a trickling effect on that of predatory fish, causing their populations to drop by 90 percent or more in the past 40-50 years. It is amazing to think how much damage can be done in as little as 50 years. The technological advances made by fishermen have proven to be efficient, but almost too efficient. Commercial fishing boats “use state-of-the-art fish-finding sonar that can pinpoint schools of fish quickly and accurately” (Green Peace). Instead of leaving a few fish behind to repopulate the school that was just caught, fishermen capture entire schools of fish, making it nearly impossible for fish to successfully repopulate. Perhaps the most disturbing story of fish exploitation has to be the tale of Newfoundland’s Grand Banks Fishing Co. When the new settlers came to Newfoundland, they were overwhelmed by the abundance of cod. Small fishing companies thrived for decades until the 1950s and 60s rolled around. New technological advances in “trawler design were modeled after the factory whaling ships that had devastated the last remaining whale populations in that area” (Green Peace). With those huge nets, fishermen could catch up to as much as 200 tons of fish in one hour; that’s twice as much as what boats constructed in the 1930s would catch in one season. After Canada saw that catches were decreasing year after year, they decided to ban foreign fishing boats from catching 12 miles off the coast, to a new 200 miles off the coast. This then created a monopoly on the cod business for Canadians; rather than letting the cod population resurface, they saw it as a chance to cash in on an opportunity of a lifetime. The Canadian government decided to spend millions of dollars on new trawlers so the cod could be harvested. Unfortunately, the trawlers, which are huge nets dragged by a metal pole on the ocean floor, where destroying the fragile ecosystem beneath the ocean’s surface. By 1992, cod was so scarce that the government was forced to close Grand Banks, causing over 30,000 people to lose their jobs. Since the Canadian government took advantage of the cod and did not regulate its catches, the population decreased so drastically that it is will most likely never recover. Instead of realizing it was their own fault for the potential demise of the cod, the government has now blamed harp seals, which they believe are enabling the cod’s comeback. So, the government has now taken action...
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