Overfishing

Mussel ship in action
Mussel ship
Despite what the film ‘Jaws’ may lead you to you believe, only thirty people a year are killed by sharks. Although those are still thirty lives, one should pay attention to the number of sharks killed every year – approximately 38 million. Many different types of sharks, including the large white shark, are greatly overfished. Sharks are particularly vulnerable to overfishing, because it takes them many years before they are able to reproduce. As a result, there is a great chance that they are caught before reproducing. This is not only bad for the present number of sharks, but also for the sharks in the future.

Apart from sharks there are other fish species that are threatened by overfishing. As overfishing mostly takes place in the oceans, it is difficult to regulate. Oceans are a common good and do not belong to a specific country. Therefore efforts have been done to arrange fishing regulations internationally. In 2000 the FAO's Committee on Fisheries (COFI) adopted an International Plan of Action to regulated fishing. The goal is to prevent and deter illegal fishing and to able to punish offenders.

Fishes
Fish
Ocean fishery- There are different types of wild fish that are fished too heavily. Every species of fish needs a minimum number to be able to maintain the population. When too many fish are caught, the population decreases, and in the long term, the fishing industry will decrease as well. Also, if fishermen do not pay close enough attention to the reproductive capacity of the fish, they cause themselves problems in the long term. Decades will pass before fish populations will be back to their original levels. Primarily fish that cross national borders, such as some types of tuna, are hard to control, because they are under authority of more than one country. For example, the Pacific sardine and Peruvian anchovies, which were once large in number and thought to be immune to overfishing, have decreased drastically. Fishery regulations try to avoid the problems associated with overfishing by restricting fishery to open seasons, outside for instance the mating season.  Also fishing the most vulnerable species is sometimes temporarily halted.

Freshwater fish- Freshwater fish face different problems. They live in rivers and lakes in areas with large environmental problems, caused by the presence of heavy industry for instance. Many special freshwater fish are found in waters with small areas, because their natural boundaries do not allow them to swim away. It is easier for saltwater fish which live in seas or oceans to find another living area. Because certain types of freshwater fish often live in one place and are unable to leave, water pollution usually has an enormous impact on the fish stock. In Western Europe there has been a lot of attention for water quality in rivers and lakes over the past decades. Industries are subject to strict regulations, and are frequently checked by governmental agencies. Since the 1980s the rivers have tremendously improved, and these days lots of species have been observed which were thought to have disappeared.

Consuming responsibly- Not all fish species are overfished and there is quite a difference in the environmental friendliness of fishing methods. Fishing is based on the market principles of demand and supply. Thus, as a consumer, you can choose to buy the fish not under threat of overfishing over one that is in danger of extinction. A guideline for “good” fish can be found on www.fishonline.org.