Fishing has been a major occupational and socio-cultural activity, especially of the people who reside in coastal regions in various parts of the World. However, it has had a negative impact on the number and type of fishes that remains in the oceans, leading to fishing mortality. Hence, it has become necessary to have certain rules and regulations to manage these natural resources. The term fishing mortality is a technical term, which refers to the rate at which the fish are removed from the natural stocks of fishes available in the ocean and seas. It should be considered as the percent at which the fish are removed every year from the oceans. It is important to remember that fishing occurs throughout the year, and at the same time fishes are added into the natural stocks. If the fishing mortality is reduced, there are chances that the yield would increase. However, the fishes are removed continuously, seriously depleting the natural stocks (Lobster Conservation, 2007; FAO, 2007).
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Although, the oceans covers three-fourths of the earth, the natural resources present are being exploited in a manner, which they cannot be replaced. Overfishing is existent throughout the world. In urban areas, the problem is even more severe. Western style of fishing has tried to solve the fishing problems in the past, but now uncontrollable activities have really taken a serious toll on nature. The fisherman and the fishing corporations are catching much more fish such that nature is unable to replace them. Although, fishing can be said to be a sustainable activity, overfishing should be considered to be ‘unsustainable’. Due to this activity, smaller and immature fishes are being caught. The actual cause of overfishing has been the increasing human demand for seafood (Overfishing.org, 2007).
Throughout the world, the number of trawlers that perform deep-sea fishing is increasing. Many companies are not managing the natural resource caught. More than 80 % of the natural fishing stocks in the world are overexploited, depleted or exploited. Several species of fishes are lost due to the damaging overfishing activities. This is having a serious activity on the natural ecological systems. A natural resource that is a source of social activity, diet and nutrition and economy to millions of people throughout the world would be lost within a short period of time (Overfishing.org, 2007).
In Canada, during the year 1992, the Canadian Fishing corporations found no cod in the seas due to overfishing. This has left more than 40, 000 people in the coastal regions of Canada effectively with no source of livelihood. These communities are still in search of fishing stocks for earning their income. The overfishing activities in the oceans have seriously affected other species found in the oceans such as sharks, whales, dolphins, sea birds, deep marine inhabitants, etc. Fishing corporations are in fact turning to hunting these species as a replacement for the fishes usually obtained from the oceans. This has affected the biodiversity found in the deep oceans (Overfishing.org, 2007).
The fishing industry has in fact wasted several natural resources. Many unwanted fishes that are caught, are returned to the oceans dead. The fishing corporations should remember that they form an important part of nature and cannot unnecessarily be destroyed in such a way. Besides, shark fishing has also turned out to be a huge disaster for this species. Sharks are very difficult to replace in nature. They reproduce at a very slow rate compared to any other species. Sharks usually group in single sex packs, and in such circumstances, it may be very difficult for them to reproduce. In some parts of the world, such as China, Japan and South America, there is a delicacy to consume shark fins. The other parts of the body are suualy wasted. This has seriously distorted a natural resource. In many parts of the world sharks are caught along with other fishes accidentally. This happened in the 1950’s in the Gulf of Mexico areas, in which certain types of sharks (Oceanic White tips) were caught mistaking them to be tuna. However, the fisherman only realised that they were not tuna when they reached the market. Hence, these natural resources were seriously getting depleted. More than 99 % of the sharks in the Gulf of Mexico region were lost in the process. Hammerheads are also facing such a story, as more than 89 % of them are lost due to fishing (Overfishing.org, 2007).
Hence, all the nations should take it as a priority to save the natural resources present in the oceans immediately. However, the situation needs to be thoroughly evaluated as millions of people living in the coastal areas depend on the seas for a livelihood. Socio-economic considerations – communities that depend on the sea for their livelihood should be allowed to use this natural resource. They should be demonstrated the manner in which the resources can be sustained for a longer time. They should also be demonstrated the alternatives to fishing such as fish and shrimp farming. Permitting them to catch fish for themselves, their families and their communities will not have a serious impact on the fishing stocks. The term ‘overfishing’ needs to be defined in a more precise manner. Overfishing can have economic as well as biological consequences. The biological consequences may include destruction of the naturally existing populations of fishes present in the oceans to such an extent that the species may find it difficult replace. The populations of these fishes may drop seriously.
However, the overfishing may have even more serious economic consequences. Losing a natural resource would have an even serious implication on the food chain. Other fishes may depend on the smaller ones, and once these are lost even the larger ones would get destroyed. Many of the fishing communities surviving in various parts of the world, have depended on the oceans for a livelihood. The oceans have not only provided a livelihood, but also social and cultural resources. They have been using the oceans for fishing since a long-time, and have ensured that the natural resources are not exploited to the extent that they would get depleted and unsustainable. Traditional, their entire diet and nutrition would be derived from fishes. If the fishing activities were banned, these communities would be in serious jeopardy. They would have their economic and culture sources cut off. Many of the towns that are formed along the seacoast depend on fishing for its survival. These communities have protected the seas and oceans by preventing their exploitation. If they were prevented from fishing in the oceans further, it would not do any justice to them (Grain.org, 2007 & Overfishing.org, 1997).
In several pacific islands such Samoa, Solomon Islands, Marianas, Micronesia, etc, fishing is basically done for subsistence rather than commercial fishing. The locals in these parts of the world consume a diet of about 200 kgs of fish every year. In some of the Pacific islands such as Naura and Tonga, fishing is mainly done for commercial purposes rather than subsistence sake. This has seriously led to a decline in the catch size, which has been observed in recent times. In 1999, the catch size was about 90, 000 tonnes, whereas in 2001 it was about 30, 000 tonnes (UNEP, 2005).
There are several strategies by which the fish mortality can be reduced. However, conflicting interests of the human populations needs to be addressed. Some of the means of reducing the fishing mortality include: -
Restricting the fishing activity for certain period of time – It may be very difficult to restrict fishing for a particular season. However, during the breeding season, the fishing operations can be reduced to ensure that the population of fishes are able to recover. This would also ensure that the fish are able to grow and mature and that immature forms are not caught. The fishes should be given time to breed, multiply and grow. The government and other enforcement agencies should plan this well in advance. In many parts of the world, certain types of fishing activities are not permitted during the monsoon season. People who engage in fishing activities should be given part time jobs to ensure that they do get some earnings (FAO, 2007).
Restricting on the type of fishing activity performed – The local fisherman that basically fish for the survival of the local population should be permitted to remove the fish from the sea. This is because they usually do not indulge in damaging fishing activities. Commercial fishing activity should be prohibited for certain periods of time especially during the breeding season. This would help in recovering the fish population. Besides, the commercial fishing boats should be permitted to fish for only certain types of fishes that are easily sustained in nature. Limits should be placed on the amount they can fish per operation. Usually, fishing corporations would remove an unregulated amount of fishes, as there are no rules with regards to this issue. The Government would have to frame a legislation limiting the amounts of fishes that can actually be removed from the oceans. Efforts should also be on to prevent entry of fishing trawlers in certain places in the ocean known as ‘tapus’ and ‘fonos’ (FAO, 2007 & UNEP, 2005).
Changing the type of fishing gear – Some of the fishing activities may take extended periods of time, and fisherman has to compensate for it by drawing larger amounts of fish. Having more effective gear that would enable catching the fish faster can reduce this. An example of this would be to utilise purse-seines nets instead of gill nets. The operation costs of the fishing activity would also be reduced. The fisherman can also engage in performing other activities. Efforts should also be on to prevent fishing unwanted varieties of sea animals. An example of this would be to have a turtle trap that would enable sea turtles and bigger fish to escape in case they are caught. Fishing nets that permit catching only the matured fish should be utilised. This would enable the fry to escape (FAO, 2007).
Community approaches – The fishing communities throughout the world should be educated of the damaging effects overfishing is having no the natural resources. Communities should stick to their traditional fishing approaches. In many regions of the world, traditional fishing approaches have returned and have been very useful in reducing the mortality rates of fishes. The communities should be educated about the types of fishes that have to be caught, returning the unwanted varieties back into nature immediately and using certain fishing methods. Many islands in the Pacific Ocean have conservative community-based programs developed. The developed nations have to encourage implementation of such programs in the developing countries. The communities have also be educated about the associated activities of fishing that could have a damaging effect on nature, such as cutting wood for smoking the fish products, using polluting boats, etc. Many of the pacific islanders are being underpaid for their fishing products. The buyers should ensure that these communities are paid as per the international rates to ensure that they do not indulge in overfishing in order to compensate for the reduced rates (UNEP, 2005).
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