Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Overfishing Part 3: The Impact on Ecosystems

In part two of my series on overfishing, I discussed how our excessive fishing activity can affect species diversity within an ecosystem, or the number of species per area in relation to their distribution under normal stresses. To conclude my three part series on overfishing I will take a look at ecosystem diversity, and how it may be affected by disproportionate fishing operations.

Thankfully, there are no known eradications of specific ecosystems due to fishing activities alone. However, there are a number of examples where the regional distribution of ecosystem varieties over large areas of our oceans and coastal land have been reduced excessively. In essence, our fishing activities have threatened the diversity of our ecosystems.

One pertinent example of this threat has been observed in our practicing of mariculture, the farming of economically viable sea life. Overindulgence in this activity has significantly modified coastal and estuarine habitats on many parts of the planet. In the coastal regions of Ecuador and Thailand, mangrove habitats that serve as essential nursery habitats for many fishes, are being dug out and replaced with ponds to build fish farms. Although mangrove ecosystems have been depleted significantly on a regional scale, they have not yet completely disappeared globally.

The popular fishing method of Trawling
Another way in which our fishing activities contribute to the destruction of habitats that marine organisms rely on to build their communities has been observed in the coral reef complexes of the Caribbean. Overexploitation of the fish in these regions has directly caused a number of coral reef die-offs. Furthermore, fishermen in Southeast Asia are using dynamite and cyanide to catch these reef fish for the aquarium market, as well as for local consumption. Such practices quite obviously harm large regions of coral reefs, which serve as a home for numerous varieties of sea creatures. The more commonly used fishing method of trawling, where large heavy nets are dragged along the ocean floor, has been shown to damage sea grass or rocky habitats, displacing sea-floor dwellers, and weakening structures that help create homes for marine life.

Now that I have discussed a number of ways in which overfishing threatens the biodiversity of our oceans, you may be asking yourself what you can do to help. The number one way to have an impact is to tell others about my series, and educate them about what you learned. Many people do not even know that overfishing is an issue, or what it even entails. Furthermore, you can join organizations or groups geared towards putting pressure on your government to address these issues and crack down on fisheries that practice unsustainable fishing methods. They can also work on securing large portions of Marine Protected Areas where fishing is banned and natural resources are protected. Lastly, you can reduce your consumption of seafood, thereby reducing the demand for fish.

Our oceans are a truly magnificent spectacle; let’s preserve them as best we can so our future generations can enjoy them to the extent that we did. 

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