Save the World’s Fish!

Yellowfin tuna are being fished as a replaceme...

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The world’s oceans are rapidly losing fish, with more than 85 percent of fish populations overexploited and Asian fishing boats largely responsible, Greenpeace says.

“The ocean fish populations are in a free fall due to overfishing,” Sarah Duthie, head of Greenpeace’s Global Oceans Campaign, told IRIN on 3 June in Bangkok. “Unless we begin to protect our marine reserves, it’s going to be a race for the last fish.”

Over the past 30 years, fishing fleets have increased globally by 70 percent, reaching an estimated six million now, most of them Asian. New technology has led to even more destructive fishing methods, such as bottom trawling which indiscriminately scours the ocean floor, causing 50-60 percent of all catch to be thrown back as waste.

Tara Buakamsri, director of Greenpeace in Southeast Asia, said it was expanding its programme in the region, calling for 40 percent ocean protection through marine reserves and awareness on the part of consumers. “Two-thirds of all fish are consumed a continent away.” Sustainable seafood is a movement that has gained momentum as more people become aware about overfishing and environmentally destructive fishing methods. Sustainable seafood is seafood from either fished or farmed sources that can maintain or increase production in the future without jeopardizing the ecosystems from which it was acquired. In general, slow-growing fish that reproduce late in life, such as orange roughly, are vulnerable to overfishing. Seafood species that grow quickly and breed young, such as anchovies and sardines, are much more resistant to overfishing.

According to a 2008 UN report, the world’s fishing fleets are losing $50 billion USD each year through depleted stocks and poor fisheries management. The report, produced jointly by the World Bank and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), asserts that half the world’s fishing fleet could be scrapped with no change in catch. In addition, the biomass of global fish stocks have been allowed to run down to the point where it is no longer possible to catch the amount of fish that could be caught. Increased incidence of schistosomiasis in Africa has been linked to declines of fish species that eat the snails carrying the disease-causing parasites. Massive growth of jellyfish populations threaten fish stocks, as they compete with fish for food, eat fish eggs, and poison or swarm fish, and can survive in oxygen depleted environments where fish cannot; they wreak massive havoc on commercial fisheries. Overfishing eliminates a major jellyfish competitor and predator exacerbating the jellyfish population explosion.