The Pursuit for Sustainable Fishing
Did you know that 70.8% of the earth’s surface is covered by water? With four major oceans, holding about 96.5% of all the earth's water. These marine biomes encompass a wide variety of marine species, not to mention, they also diversified into different zones giving the necessary support required for the proliferation of marine life. Moreover, oceans play a leading role in global systems, making Earth habitable for humankind.
For the past decades, oceans all over the world have acted as the primary source of livelihood for over three billion people. In fact, fish continues to be one of the most globally traded food products.
However, as fishing industries partake in the cycle of production and consumption, many continue to question, “Is the fishing industry really as sustainable as they portray themselves to be?” The global fish production may have been able to supply 156 million tonnes of seafood for human consumption, but at what cost. At the current time, demand for seafood and advances in technology have led to fishing practices that caused marine populations around the world to decline at a rate that may soon result in a collapse of the world’s fisheries. It is undeniable that aside from the skyrocketing consumption, a continuous deterioration of coastal waters owing to pollution, overfishing, and climate change are the other challenges faced by the fishing industry. Due to this realization, many have switched to more sustainable methods of fishing but with it comes new economic challenges.
To begin, seafood production comprises two methods, specifically, wild fish catch and aquaculture. Wild fish catch, as its name pertains to, is the harvesting of already existing populations of fish, shellfish, and other aquatic animals. On the other hand, aquaculture is the purposeful cultivation and subsequent harvesting of both freshwater and marine animals. Although both types of methods have its benefits, it does not come without downsides of its own.
First, fishes caught in the wild are less likely to contract diseases because they live in their natural environment. Secondly, less treatment and monitoring are performed in their habitat, leaving them free to thrive. Third, since fishes continue to hunt for their next meal, they have a more diverse diet. Unfortunately, wild-caught fishes have their disadvantages. First, there are several species of wild fish that are depleting in number and even close to extinction due to overfishing. Secondly, there are a number of fishing sectors that utilize destructive fishing methods which allow ships to make a big catch in such a short period of time. Examples of these harmful fishing techniques include dynamite fishing and bottom trawling which is extremely destructive as it alters the seafloor, destroying entire habitats as the ship tows the trawl. Every year bottom trawling destroys an average of 81.5 tons of deep-sea corals and sponge ecosystems that may take as long as a millennium to develop.
On the other hand, farm-raised fishes are raised in a controlled environment. Their homes are man-made tanks above the ground or pens that are placed in large bodies of water. The first advantage of fish farming is that it allows for cheaper access to fish. Secondly, aquacultures have proven to be capable of meeting the rising demands of the population. However, the emergence of aquacultures can also serve as breeding grounds for unsustainable practices which will eventually bring about adverse impacts on the state of the marine environment. First, it is more probable for farm-raised fish to have higher contamination which in turn, can harm consumers. Secondly, farmed fishes are more prone to diseases due to unhygienic farming conditions. Third, high antibiotic use in farm-raised fish is common, which, unfortunately, are passed along to consumers. Fourth, fish farms can pose a threat to the condition of natural habitats of native fishes through the pollution of local waters.
In conclusion, both farm-raised and wild-caught fishes have their gains and losses. The nutrition quality of seafood largely depends on what the fish eats. Wild-caught fishes have a varied diet; thus, offering a wider variety of nutrients. In contrast, farm-raised fishes may eat the same diet, day after day. However, it all depends on the fish farm as the diet could consist of the farms’ fortified feed resulting in higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Moreover, aquaculture seafood is not immediately guaranteed to be sustainable since some practices include the overfishing of wild fish to feed to the farmed fish. That is why choosing whether to support farm-raised fishes or wild-caught fishes, will still mainly depend on the fishing practices and methods of the fishery in raising and catching seafood.
In relation to the Sustainable Development Goals, responsible fishing practices are a key feature to building a sustainable ocean economy. Marine biodiversity is truly critical to the health of the people and our planet; thus, marine protected areas need to be effectively managed and well-resourced with stringent quality control procedures. Supplementary environmental legislations must also be implemented since in an absence of adequate regulations and laws, environment conservation cannot be fully realized. This will not only help reduce overfishing and marine pollution, both of which threaten the contribution of the sector but also encourage the fisheries to adhere to sustainable practices when raising and harvesting their fish. Doing so will ensure a food secure future and a stable source of livelihood for all.
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