Water, Water Everywhere But Not a Fish in Sight!

A couple of fishing boats in the harbour near Kovalam Beach, Kerala, India

 

“Humans have always been very good at killing big animals. Ten thousand years ago, with just some pointed sticks, humans managed to wipe out the woolly mammoths, saber tooth tigers, mastodons and giant vampire bats. The same is now happening in the seas.” So said the late Ransom A. Myers, Fisheries Biologist and Head of the Future of the Marine Animals Populations Project.

Enjoy your Christmas prawns/shrimp, your lobster tail, oysters, caviar and other assorted sea delicacies my friends, because such lavish knees up will soon be just a memory. In fact, results from the 2010 Marine Census indicate that if current fishing trends continue, commercial fisheries will have collapsed by 2050.

If you haven’t already twigged to the fact that seafood prices are through the roof and wondered why, then you might be interested to know that we are fishing sea life out of existance.

Yes, of course, seafood was just invented so that humans can eat heaps and heaps of delicious sea thingies at buffets and weddings, that’s why it’s called seaFOOD. Annually, millions of tonnes of seaFOOD is fished out of the ocean for us lucky humans.

Unfortunately we seem to have so many parties that we’ve fished out all the seaFOOD near the shore and now the boats have to go further and further out into the ocean. What a pest.

Although we don’t give two hoots, there are some other annoying animals and bigger sea creatures who also like seaFOOD. In fact, it’s often their only food. And they’re currently starving because unlike our boats, they can’t go right out to sea on the continual search for seaFOOD. A bear prefers land and likes to catch their salmon as it jumps upstream to reproduce.  Penguins also like to fish close to shore. The further they travel, the greater the likelihood of their being gulped up by a hungry seal.

And of course, we clean forgot that if we overfish all the seaFOOD, there’ll be no seaFOOD parents left to make seaFOOD babies so there is more seaFOOD for our next Christmas knees up. The orange roughy can attest to this. With a life span of 150 years (if not eaten by something), they begin their reproductive life at the age of twenty five. We began commercial fishing of orange roughy just ten years ago and they are already endangered. I mean, it’s just ridiculous that they take so long to begin reproducing and we can’t wait that long. So we’re eating them all before they get a chance to reproduce. It would be the lucky one that gets to live to twenty five neverlone 150! Fat chance of that!

Other seacreatures are in serious decline. 90% of populations of top predators – tuna, shark and swordfish – have been caught and the repercussions are serious. There has been a decline of  87% of sandbar sharks, 93% of blacktip sharks, 97% of tiger sharks, 98% of scalloped hammerheads and 99% of bull and smooth hammerheads since 1972, according to a survey by the University of North Carolina. Sharks are prized by the Chinese for their fins which are hacked off while the shark is still alive and the finless shark is then tossed back into the ocean to die. It is estimated that 50 million sharks also die annually due to accidental entanglement in fishing nets.

So how does this impact other marine life?

Well, sharks are top predators of sting rays. Now that sharks are becoming extinct there is a population explosion amongst sting rays. Spotted eagle rays have become increasingly common off Hawaii. Populations of long headed eagle rays are exploding in Japan’s Ariake Sound and cownose rays in Chesapeake Bay. Sharks are the natural predator of sting rays and have hitherto kept their numbers in check. However, now that sharks are virtually extinct, sting ray numbers are exploding and numbers of shellfish are plunging proportionally. Sting rays love to eat softshell and hard clams, oysters and scallops. In fact, the longheaded eagle rays in Ariake Sound are decimating several shellfish species a year. In Chesapeake Bay the rays are gobbling down 925,000 tons of hard clams and oysters. Now that will put a dent in your Christmas platters!

And who can we blame for that? Well we killed the sharks and are still doing so, without a thought for biodiversity. We hate to hear about anything that might try to stop us catching and eating anything that takes our fancy. And boy, do we hate anything else that tries to steal OUR seaFOOD off us! Fishermen happily kill seals who dare to eat their seaFOOD.

So in Russia bears who normally rely on salmon catches  to bulk up for winter, are starving and resorting to attacking miners for food because illegal salmon fishing has stolen their food. The same scenario is being played out all over the world. Seals, penguins etc are having to fish further out at sea because commercial fishermen have fished out the waters close to shore. Recent attacks on humans by sharks in Egypt have been largely blamed on overfishing. When we steal other predator’s food then they turn on us – it seems a fair and logical conclusion.

In fact, such is the dire state of the world’s oceans that there are more than 400 dead zones around the world. The dead zones contain nothing other than jellyfish. One such dead zone exists off the coast of Namibia. Their fish have all been fished out by fishermen. Spadefish, sunfish and loggerhead turtles which eat jellyfish have all been fished out and hence jellyfish which are otherwise known as the cockroaches of the sea, are now thriving around Australia, Britain, Hawaii, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, the Sea of Japan and China’s Yangtze Estuary.

Half the coral reefs in the Carribean and one quarter of all the reefs around the world are dead due to pollution, physical destruction and increased temperatures. Increased CO2 takeup in the ocean has increased acidity which causes lower saturation states of the carbonate minerals used to form skeletal material.

So unless you have a plan to save the world’s seaFOOD, then you’d best eat up now as it will soon be just a memory.

Have a look at https://roslynmotter.com/2010/11/05/be-quick-to-see-the-seahorse.

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One response to “Water, Water Everywhere But Not a Fish in Sight!

  1. Pingback: The Curious Story of the Food we Eat – Part 2 | Roslyn Motter – Children's Author

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