Overfishing has led to many marine world species to become endangered.
The problem occurs due to fishing only specific fishes of specific gender and other desired characteristics, which disrupts the balance of the ecosystem.
For example, bluefin tuna has been popular for decades now, and is a part of many meals. Even though this fish can swim 80 km per hour, fishermen manage to catch lots of it, which led to the decrease in its population by a staggering 90%, as Scientific American reports. The same happens with many other sorts of fish.
If something doesn’t change in the near future, the marine world may be in grave danger.
To prevent a disaster, regulations have been brought, and the fishers are to target certain species and regular populations, not going below minimum-population limits of tuna and red snapper, but this isn’t a great solution either. Namely, by fishing only for specific species, instead of maintaining balance they can in fact disrupt it.
According to a study conducted at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the best way to balance out harvesting is ‘balanced exploitation’ as the lead researcher, Shijie Zhou calls it. This concept involves harvesting fish without picking them according to their size, species or gender, but considering their population and the rate by which they will replenish. This way, the ecosystem will not be so out of balance.
Balanced harvesting is an idea studied by several credible and popular research teams, including those from Science, Fish and Fisheries and the National Academy of Sciences.
It would mean not focusing only on certain species, but harvesting every size and species in proportion to its population and productivity. This may not sound like a big change, but it definitely is, especially considering that the current fishing system often includes catching only certain sizes, and those are usually the biggest fish fisherman can catch.
If fishers don’t accept this idea and start balancing their harvests, it is possible that populations of many fish will simply die off, or at least come near to extinction.
On the other hand, by accepting it, fishers will probably contribute to the increase of fish supply and not put an end to the ecosystem as we know it.
According to an article published this June in Fish and Fisheries, as balanced harvesting involves catching new species and sizes which were neglected before, there would be more fish in the nets, but without endangering certain species. Different sizes and species would be left in big enough numbers so they can reproduce and, as Fish and Fisheries suggest, certain species would start growing larger. Namely, they explain it by saying that some fish decide not to grow out of fear of being caught by fishermen. Once we have balanced our harvests, they will let themselves go and grow larger, which would in return improve the flow of food supply.
Even though there are obviously many benefits of ‘balanced exploitation’ which is supported by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, other conservation organizations and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States, still nothing has been officially decided and no regulations have been brought, which means most fishermen are still fishing for the biggest, most popular and most expensive fish they can find, putting the marine world at risk.
Hopefully, something will change soon, and balanced harvesting will be obligatory, or the repercussions will be serious and life as we know it will change.