In oceans all over the world, fish are being hunted down to every last one, and our oceans are now in jeopardy. Looking at the oceans, here are four important reasons why they’re in trouble, and some ideas on how we can help.
1. Overfishing & Extinction:
Bluefin Tuna, a species severely overfished because of the high demand for its meat, now faces extinction. Unless the international ban being debated in Europe works, the fish will soon be gone. That shows how badly one species can be overfished, even though the world doesn’t need that much fish.
Overfishing is a large and constant threat that looms over almost every fish in the ocean. What will happen if suddenly, one entire species is gone, swept away by massive nets. That is why many people and organizations are trying to stop overfishing now.
What can we do to help?
Stop purchasing seafood that is being overfished or that is on the verge of extinction. For more information on good fish to eat, visit Seafood Watch and Fish 2 Fork (or follow them on Twitter @SeafoodWatch and @Fish2Fork. We can also eat more sustainably, instead of eating dangerous food that is being overfished and caught in massive quantities.
Many people also think that farmed fish is sustainable and safe, but they may be wrong. Many types of farmed fish (particularly salmon) cause some damage. Farmed fish produce a lot of nitrogen, which causes algal blooms, which results in having to give fish antibiotics. The antibiotics affect oceans and there inhabitants when farmed fish escape and can weaken other fish’s genetic lines.
Finally, it takes a ton of “food fish” to raise only a small amount of farmed fish. Taking out to much food fish disturbs the food chain, starving the fish that survive on the food fish in the open ocean. This is an extremely inefficient way to produce protein, because you must feed dozens of pounds of food fish for ever pound of farmed fish created.
2. Polluted Rivers and Oceans and Toxic Fish:
Where the Mississippi River runs into the Gulf of Mexico is now a dead zone. No fish can survive there because of the pollution, especially pesticide and fertilizer runoff from agricultural fields, that runs into the Mississippi River from all the different branches and then into the Gulf.
There is also the pollution from coal-fired power plants emitting mercury, which I wrote about in my review of The Cove. Mercury is one of the most toxic substances on earth, and mercury poisoning is commonly referred to as “Minamata Disease.” The town of Minamata, Japan’s drinking water was contaminated by methyl mercury, which led to about 30 years of many animals and people deaths; while the government and Chisso (the industrial company responsible for the outbreak) watched and did nothing about the pollution. Nowadays, many types of fish are contaminated because of such pollution.
What can we do to help?
Stop buying food that we don’t know where it’s from and purchase more sustainable foods and fish. Go online and learn about what fish are contaminated, and what types aren’t. Then when we go to the store, we’ll know what is safe for ourselves and our families to eat. We should also spread the word about how pollution is getting into our waters and killing fish and other creatures, as well as making people sick.
Consider what else we can do to prevent pollution. Almost everything we do to use energy uses fossil fuels, e.g., coal, oil or gas. That puts more CO2 and bad chemicals like mercury into the air and the ocean. What can we do about it? Reduce using energy when you don’t need to; turn the thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer, Turn off lights when you leave a room. Walk or bike instead of riding in a car when possible. Everything you do to use less energy will help the ocean. Secondly, stop putting pesticides and unsustainable fertilizers on your lawns. Why? The storm runoff can leak into rivers and streams, which head to oceans, ultimately. The toxic chemicals in fertilizers will reach the ocean, basically creating dead zones that will kill lots of marine mammals, plants and other living creatures.
3. Ocean Ecosystems Are Being Destroyed:
In many places deep under the rocking waves of our oceans throughout the world, fish thrive, feeding on each other – basically a circle of life. Now imagine if that circle broke, as one species is hunted down to extinction. Or, imagine if pollution invades an ecosystem and wipes it out. Then the circle comes tumbling down, and that basically collapses part of the ocean. Why does it affect the ocean? Because ecosystems keep oceans in balance, so if it tilts or breaks, Earth’s oceans are in trouble.
What can we do about it?
We can all lobby our governments to support the international fishing ban and similar laws, which will stop overfishing and help restore the balance in the oceans. Vote for governors, senators and representative that will try to help oceans and against people who don’t support it. Ocean Champions is supporting such candidates that support sustainable fishing and oceans. Check them out. As consumers, we have the power to also reduce demand for the types of crops that are grown using pesticides and fertilizers along our major waterways, which feed into our oceans.
4. Arrogant Companies and Ignorant Consumers
People often walk into a supermarket, deciding to pick up a certain type of fish that they may have no idea where it’s from, how it was caught or what type of fish it is. Regarding the last statement, consumers are sometimes misled by packagers. For example, in Taiji, Japan (where The Cove took place) many citizens thought they were buying one type of fish, when they were really buying contaminated dolphin meat. So, that random fish you’re eating could be caught in Japan, slaughtered there, bought at a massive fish market, traded to another company, and then shipped to places all over the world to be sold in supermarkets and purchased by the un-excepting consumer.
What can we do about it?
As I mentioned above, it’s important that we know where the fish we eat is from. When we shop at supermarkets, we can look up Seafood Watch on our phones or other Internet-connected devices to get the latest updates. When we go out to eat, we should visit Fish 2 Fork to learn about good restaurants in our area.
Special thanks to Mike Dunmyer, Executive Director of Ocean Champions, for his contributions to this article. In addition to his help on the article, Mike also shared with me Surfrider’s “20 Simple Things You Can Do For Cleaner Oceans, Waves and Beaches,” which explains what we all can do for our oceans.