Overfishing, the worst of the worst.

As our population, the human race grows, it’s time to ask ourselves the question…  What about the declining population of other species’?

I’m talking specifically about fish (yes, it’s another post on the ocean), but the rapid decline of the fish population holds probably the most shocking figures. The first account of overfishing was known to be in the early 19th century, we almost wiped out the whale population because we needed their blubber for oil lamps. Since then, let me tell you, it’s only got worse.

As it stands, we’re currently pulling about 90-100 million tons of fish from the oceans every year and of those 90-100 millions as many as 40% are thrown back into the water, dead. Obviously, you can see why there might be a cause for concern – think of the waste! We’re just killing fish and then throwing them back into the ocean, no wonder ¾ of the world’s fisheries have pretty much collapsed!

It appears to me that the oceans and overfishing doesn’t seem to get as much media coverage as animal rights or climate change for example, maybe this is because we can’t necessarily see the physical damage being done. Maybe it’s because fish aren’t cute or fluffy and they’re not really seen as intelligent beings. But, as I referenced in my last post – the oceans cover 71% of the Earth’s surface, so if they are being exploited and depleted, it will affect us in a very real way.

The main problem really started in the mid 20th century, when industrial fishing began. Industrial fishing is how most of the fish in our food industry are caught, huge ships that are able to stay out at sea for up to six months at a time using advanced technology to track and capture fish. PETA claims “Commercial fishing is cruelty to animals on a colossal scale, killing hundreds of billions of animals worldwide every year—far more than any other industry.” So there you have it, overfishing is the worst of the worst.  Since industrial fishing began, the large fish population has been reduced by 90%, that’s right, there is only 10% of the large fish population left in the ocean. This may seem shocking, but what I find more shocking is the predictions being made for the future. According to scientists by the year 2048, we will have fishless oceans. That’s 31 years away, the same amount of time away as the year 1986 – it just doesn’t seem real. Yet, as most people will probably agree, science is probably one of the most real sources of evidence we can get, and these claims are made by science. It’s time to wake up, smell the sea air and start ethically and sustainably sourcing fish – either that or just stop eating them all together. As usual, I will put any relevant links in case anyone is interested in reading more information about overfishing.

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71% of the Earth’s surface is about to go pear shaped

The oceans are the single most important aspect of the well being of earth and all of the life forms that live on it. We see it as a vast, mysterious and somewhat beautiful thing. You may not necessarily relate climate change or population growth to the ocean, there are no visible effects, out of sight out of mind so to speak. But since the industrial revolution (as I referenced earlier as one of the most important times in regards to population growth) greenhouse gases as a result of man’s actions have risen by 25%. This is partly due to the over farming of cows (AKA one of the main producers of Methane gases) and also due to the amount of cars, trains, planes and boats that are constantly whizzing around our planet.

But what has greenhouse gases and population growth actually got to do with the ocean? Well, due to the rising global temperature because of the ever-growing greenhouse gas emissions this has created a rising temperature in sea levels as well. Rising sea temperatures are extremely detrimental to not only the oceans well being but also that of the planet’s, see the ocean makes up about 71% of the earth’s surface. So as you can imagine if that goes pear shaped, then so does pretty much everything else. Rising sea temperatures along with pollution have alone destroyed 50% of all coral reefs, which is extremely damaging to the ocean’s life forms as coral reefs support a quarter of all marine life. It homes many different fish (think Finding Nemo) and on top of that it’s breathtakingly beautiful to see – not that I’ve ever seen it, hopefully it won’t ALL be destroyed before I get the chance. On top of this, rising sea temperatures also, dramatically affects a very important link in the food chain called Krill; Krill feeds mammals such as penguins and seals, which in turn would create a food shortage for higher predators. So just forget all of those cute penguin videos on Facebook, they will be a thing of the distant past if we carry on the way we’re going. According to The National Geographic “The only way to reduce ocean temperatures is to dramatically reign in our emission of greenhouse gases. However, even if we immediately dropped carbon dioxide emissions to zero, the gases we’ve already released would take decades or longer to dissipate.” Basically, we need to start reducing carbon emissions, like, now.

Another example I would like to touch on just briefly is the point of accidental oil spillage. Due to our ever demanding need for more energy, we find big companies constantly going beneath the Ocean’s surface digging for oil and occasionally, there have been oil spillages. I want to reference specifically the most recent oil spill on the gulf of Mexico, 40 miles of the coast of Louisiana in 2010. Labelled ‘The worst environmental disaster in US history’ it killed 11 workers, and it was ruled that 3.2 billion gallons of oil was spilled into the ocean over the course of 87 days. This horrendous spill killed over 3000 Birds, 500 Sea Turtles, 64 Dolphins and since that time Bottlenose Dolphins have been dying at twice the normal rate. From the articles I’ve read that have been released since the spill the damage doesn’t seem to be as bad as expected, although I fear that it’s the unknown damage that will come back to bite us.

As cruel as this sounds, you as a reader, may not necessarily feel that rising sea temperatures have any relevance to you or your life. But bear in mind that currently, the oceans make up 71% of the Earth’s surface and with rising sea temperatures leading to rising sea levels because of melting ice caps, that figure might just increase. Try to keep in mind that we as human beings, were not made to live underwater. As usual, I will post the links to the articles I’ve read in case you’re interested in learning more about the coral reef destruction and the oil spill in 2010.