As time goes on, the fish population is becoming more endangered. Humans are depleting the ocean of its inhabitants at a record rate, endangering the ocean and the world’s ecosystem. The worldwide consumption of fish has been growing steadily, damaging the condition of the global fish stocks, of which 32% are depleted or overexploited, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. “That there has been no improvement in the status of stocks is a matter of great concern,” said Richard Grainger, a FAO senior fish expert.
Another problem is the inability of the FAO to crack down on illegal fishing, tracking only one-third of registered fishing vessels. Many countries like the US and Australia are beginning to control overfishing and starting to reconstruct food stocks. But to continue the trend of improving the condition of the fish population, Ireland and the Northern Sea must follow quickly. “We need to move much more rapidly toward rebuilding individual fish populations, and restoring the ecosystems of which they are a part, if there is to be any hope for the long-term viability of fisheries and fishing communities,” said Pamela Mace of New Zealand’s Ministry of Fisheries.
One example of a fish population in trouble is the New England cod, a fish that grows up to 5 feet long and 70 pounds, with a 20-year lifespan. In the past, cod was a politically important natural resource, with wars fought over supply, like oil reserves today. When assessments of cod were taken in the Gulf of Maine, it was discovered that the cod population was much worse than expected, and in need of serious action. Although some improvement has been recorded in the Gulf of Maine, the 2014 federally mandated abundance levels of cod cannot be met even if fishing is stopped completely. The cod dilemma is just one of the many cases – as well as the overfishing of bluefin tuna and red snapper – that need to be addressed quickly, to save important fishing communities, jobs, a popular food source and critical links in our ecosystem.
To learn how you can help preserve our resources of fish, visit The Maritime Aquarium’s “Go Fish!” exhibit. Also check out http://blueocean.org/seafoods/ for a seafood guide.
Jack Wood, Student Blogger