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Fisheries Are in Crisis: Here's How It Affects Us All

Words by 3p Contributor
Energy & Environment

By Frankie Rendón

Conservation is a hot topic. But let’s break it down and look at just one area that is in serious need of positive change. 

For many of us, eating fish is a no-brainer. It’s a popular and healthy alternative -- a great way to enjoy important nutrients without too many adverse effects on our health and wellness. In fact, the Fish and Agriculture Association notes that 16.7 percent of our human animal-protein consumption is attributable to fish; in developing islands and coastal areas, that number rises to about 50 percent.

But there’s a “catch”

The popularity of fish protein, in addition to an ever-growing world population, has led to a fishery crisis that spans the globe -- and will only worsen if something isn’t done.

Global fish stocks are in trouble. Thanks mainly to consumer habits and current industry practices, fish stock numbers are dwindling fast. According to an infographic by the Vermont Law School and the New England Aquarium (below), Pacific Bluefin tuna populations decreased by 96 percent between 1950 and 2012. Sharks and rays are also facing extinction thanks to overfishing and human intake. It is clear that overfishing is plaguing the Pacific Bluefin tuna and other important fish populations.

Growth is inevitable

Around 9.6 billion people are expected to inhabit the earth by 2050. That’s a third more than our current 7.3 billion. To meet increasing demand for fish protein, world fishery production would need to increase by the millions. But these fisheries cannot sustain with this increase in mouths to feed on a global scale. Aquaculture – fish farming – will need to grow to compensate.

A breakdown of the crisis

Here’s a rundown of the crisis as it stands now:

  • To date, 61 percent of fish stocks are fully exploited.

  • Almost 30 percent are over-exploited and only about 10 percent are under-fished.

  • The FAO projects that, by 2020, more then 50 percent of fish for human intake will be farmed (aquaculture).

Plus, there’s a lot at stake – according to a Fish and Agriculture Association 2014 report, between 10 percent and 12 percent of the world’s population relies on fishing for their livelihood; this equates to approximately 58 million jobs in capture fisheries (and almost 19 million more in aquaculture). Women form a particularly large portion of this community.

What has been done

Already, there have been many positive steps toward reversing, or at least alleviating, this trend. Restoring crisis-ridden fisheries is a top priority – if the largest contributors can commit to sustainable practices, and if fisheries can implement strict management, there’s hope for implementing maintainable, long-term change. Strict fishery management especially has, in the past, been proven to restore depleted fish stocks. It can also increase production by the tons. Stricter management encompasses:

  • Fish size limits

  • Gear restrictions

  • Rebuilding plans

Committing to sustainable practices begins with grocers and passes down to consumers. The Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions reports that 80 percent of North America’s top grocers and food markets have committed to deal in sustainable seafood.

What still needs to be done

Consumers can follow the example of their top grocers and take steps toward implementing positive change. Here’s how:

  • Support marine protection agreements to ensure more of our oceans are protected (right now, only a small percentage are designated as such).

  • Try different types of seafood -- like clams or trout instead of salmon, tuna or shrimp (these three make up almost half of seafood eaten in the U.S.).

  • The carbon footprint of canned and frozen seafood is smaller – try these every now and then.

  • Ask your local market to provide local, sustainable seafood options.
For more information on the state of global fisheries, check out the infographic below (click to enlarge):

Image credit: Flickr/Ken Douglas

Graphic credit: Vermont Law School

As a content promotions strategist, Frankie Rendon collaborates with various online publications to ensure that the content he creates with his team is shared all over the Web. Prior to entering the internet marketing realm, he worked for a non-profit organization where he fought to address the needs of the under-served indigenous population of Latin America in efforts to improve overall quality of life. He studied at the University of Delaware and, after relocating to Tampa, received a degree in Public Relations from the University of South Florida.

3p Contributor

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