Seafood trend could lead to the potential collapse of marine life
Written by Nicole Tambunan
Out of sight, out of mind–that’s the common phrase many of us know today.
Way, way out of sight for most people is the big blue ocean, home to our aquatic friends and for many of us, our meal entrées. To Southern Californians, the ocean is only a summer playlist drive away, but even we seem to forget that the number of our sea friends is not infinite.
With the ever-growing trend of sushi, Cajun seafood and fish taco Tuesdays, it’s no wonder why the need for seafood is increasing.
The average person consumes 37 pounds of seafood a year, four times as much then they did in 1950. In fact, 400 million people in Africa and Southeast Asia alone rely on fish as their main source of food, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Southern California is one of the most influential areas, where most of the residents are open-minded and forward thinking. Because of this, we need to set an example for the rest of the country to follow in our footsteps in the fight for our gilled and grilled friends.
We’ve seen what humans have done to the animals on land. Imagine a vast, deep, empty ocean, eerily similar to the beginning of an apocalyptic movie. It’s not just the beginning to a movie, it’s a possible reality.
With human population rising and at the rate we take seafood out of the ocean, Nicola Beaumont of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory predicts that ocean life currently fished for food are predicted to collapse by the year 2048 and coral reefs are projected to be lost by 2050.
This has been led by unsustainable fishing, ways of catching wild fish that are not sustainable in the long term. Unsustainable fishing generally occurs in two ways, overfishing and threatening the environment fish need in order to thrive.
Every day in the U.S. commercial fisherman throw out about two billion pounds of bycatch, unwanted fish and other marine creatures. Many of the bycatch is edible seafood, and the amount is equivalent to half a billion seafood meals according to a report released by environmental group Oceana.
The most destructive fishing method is bottom trawling, in which an enormous net with heavy weights attached to the bottom is dragged across the sea floor.
Bottom trawling is unselective; it captures everything in its path and is responsible for half of all discarded fish and marine life worldwide. Of all sea life caught 40 percent is discarded as waste, and it is estimated that 38.5 million tons is discarded annually.
Bottom trawling also severely damages sea floor ecosystems, destroying the environment that fish need to live and flourish. The seabed is either uprooted or downright destroyed. When the bottom sediment is resuspended, the entire chemistry of the water changes. The removed sediment is carried
throughout different parts of the ocean.
Surprisingly enough, bottom trawling is legal, and is one of the easiest ways to fish. Fisherman simply need to steer the boat and allow the gigantic net, sometimes as big as 50 meters to do the work for them. With little to no effort and a big payoff, it’s no wonder why this method of fishing is preferred.
Is it too late? What can we do when the predicted end of ocean life is less than 50 years away? If 20 sites, four percent of the world’s oceans are designated as conservative zones, where no fishing is allowed, it would protect 108 species, 84 percent of the world’s marine mammals.
The simplest thing to do without so much as lifting a finger is to buy Marine Stewardship Council certified seafood.
Up to 90 percent of seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, and only half of that is wild-caught. Illegal fishing makes up 15-20 percent of the worlds total catch. Ask your supermarket and local restaurants to purchase seafood from sustainable fisheries.
Thankfully it’s not too late to save our oceans, but keeping the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality will only add to the damage.