The ocean is one of Earth's most valuable natural resources. It provides food in the form of fish and shellfish—about 200 billion pounds are caught each year. It's used for transportation—both travel and shipping. It provides a treasured source of recreation for humans. It is mined for minerals (salt, sand, gravel, and some manganese, copper, nickel, iron, and cobalt can be found in the deep sea) and drilled for crude oil. The ocean plays a critical role in removing carbon from the atmosphere and providing oxygen. It regulates Earth's climate. The ocean is an increasingly important source of biomedical organisms with enormous potential for fighting disease. These are just a few examples of the importance of the ocean to life on land. Explore them in greater detail to understand why we must keep the ocean healthy for future generations.
The oceans have been fished for thousands of years and are an integral part of human society. Fish have been important to the world economy for all of these years, starting with the Viking trade of cod and then continuing with fisheries like those found in Lofoten, Europe, Italy, Portugal, Spain and India. Fisheries of today provide about 16% of the total world's protein with higher percentages occurring in developing nations. Fisheries are still enormously important to the economy and wellbeing of communities. The word fisheries refers to all of the fishing activities in the ocean, whether they are to obtain fish for the commercial fishing industry, for recreation or to obtain ornamental fish or fish oil. Fishing activities resulting in fish not used for consumption are called industrial fisheries. Fisheries are usually designated to certain ecoregions like the salmon fishery in Alaska, the Eastern Pacific tuna fishery or the Lofoten island cod fishery. Due to the relative abundance of fish on the continental shelf, fisheries are usually marine and not freshwater. Although a world total of 86 million tons of fish were captured in 2000, China's fisheries were the most productive, capturing a whopping one third of the total. Other countries producing the most fish were Peru, Japan, the United States, Chile, Indonesia, Russia, India, Thailand, Norway and Iceland- with Peru being the most and Iceland being the least. The number of fish caught varies with the years, but appears to have leveled off at around 88 million tons per year possibly due to overfishing, economics and management practices.
Fish are caught in a variety of ways, including one-man casting nets, huge trawlers, seining, driftnetting, handlining, longlining, gillnetting and diving. The most common species making up the global fisheries are herring, cod, anchovy, flounder, tuna, shrimp, mullet, squid, crab, salmon, lobster, scallops and oyster. Mollusks and crustaceans are also widely sought. The fish that are caught are not always used for food. In fact, about 40% of fish are used for other purposes such as fishmeal to feed fish grown in captivity. For example cod, is used for consumption, but is also frozen for later use. Atlantic herring is used for canning, fishmeal and fish oil. The Atlantic menhaden is used for fishmeal and fish oil and Alaska pollock is consumed, but also used for fish paste to simulate crab. The Pacific cod has recently been used as a substitute for Atlantic cod which has been overfished. The amount of fish available in the oceans is an ever-changing number due to the effects of both natural causes and human developments. It will be necessary to manage ocean fisheries in the coming years to make sure the number of fish caught never makes it to zero. A lack of fish greatly impacts the economy of communities dependent on the resource, as can be seen in Japan, eastern Canada, New England, Indonesia and Alaska. The anchovy fisheries off the coast of western South America have already collapsed and with numbers dropping violently from 20 million tons to 4 million...
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