Industrialized fishing has severe impacts on species, habitats, and ecosystems. Most fisheries resources are in serious decline, a third of them already collapsed.
Fisheries today are dominated by a giant, modern fishing fleet with enough fishing capacity to cover 4 Earth-like planets. It is far greater than the ocean’s ability to renew the number of fish we consume.
Nearly 80% of the world’s fishery resources are already fully exploited, overfished, depleted, or in a state of collapse. Worldwide, 90% of stocks of large predatory fish, such as sharks, tuna, marlin, and swordfish, have already disappeared. In the Mediterranean and Black Seas, sufficient data exist to assess the healthy state of 85 stocks, and 88% of these are overfished.
Fishing Down the Food Web
In addition to causing an overall decline in marine fisheries catches, the excessive effort that characterizes most fisheries has led to landings consisting increasingly of smaller fishes, a result of top predators, and the older individuals within species being targeted and depleted
This has resulted in fisheries increasingly landing smaller fishes, from the lower end of the food web, and thus generating the phenomenon now widely known as ‘fishing down marine food webs’.
This phenomenon backfires and results in smaller and smaller fish being caught, targeting fish species belonging to progressively lower trophic levels.
Impact on Dolphins
Ecological extinction caused by indiscriminate fishing precedes all anthropogenic disturbances to coastal ecosystems.
Lack of food may be one of the most important regulators of population size in animals.
Some of the Mediterranean fish stocks that have been overfished include important dolphin prey species.
Many individuals in the local bottlenose dolphin population are emaciated, exhibit protruding rib profiles and/or reduced melon.
We are witnessing the decline of species and their disappearance at an ever-increasing rate. Environmental problems have become so widespread and emergencies so common that they are no longer perceived as a drama.
The European Union is the world’s largest importer of fish and over 50% of imports come from developing countries.
Today, each person eats an average of 19.2 kg of fish per year, about twice as much as 50 years ago. Sushi has transformed from a traditional method of preserving fish to an international fast food market.
No doubt we would prefer our governments to deal with environmental and ethical issues, rather than having to face tough choices ourselves. However, problems can only be solved when individuals begin to tackle them themselves. Let’s try to do our part, let’s decrease our fish consumption.