Threats to Fish and Fishing Communities
Abundance. The richness of fish populations is one reason they have played such vital roles in religion and culture. But that very wealth is now in jeopardy.
One fifth of the protein eaten by people around the world comes from marine animals. As human populations rise and technology intensifies, the growing demand takes a ever-greater toll on wild fish populations.
Take the example of Canada’s Atlantic cod fishery. It sustained the lives and livelihoods of fishing communities for hundreds of years. But a leap in harvest intensity in the latter 20th century led to a population collapse in 1992. Despite a moratorium to allow regeneration, the fishery shows no sign of recovery.
Bluefin tuna, orange roughy, and jack mackerel are just a few of the species in serious decline. Although harvest intensity continues to increase, world catch of wild fish peaked in 1980. Scientists around the world are studying how to prevent additional collapses and support recovery.
Overharvesting is only one cause of fish declines. Other causes include:
Eating sustainable seafood—and serving it a community events--is a great place to start helping global fish populations. Also important is learning more about fish conservation issues through books such as Mark Kurlansky’s Cod. Legislation is also much needed; please support the National Ocean Policy and Fisheries Act and other efforts to regulate national and international ocean exploitation.