The Problem of Overfishing

After watching “The Cove” I found myself aware of not just one issue, but several. While the focus is dolphin killing and the moral responsibility attached to hunting such an intelligent animal, I actually found overfishing to be a much more interesting and pervasive issue. Whaling is concentrated in a few areas, the most publicized of which is Taiji, Japan. While the image of dead dolphins and red water is graphic, the dolphin population is generally healthy and there haven’t been any noticeable systems of ecosystem collapse related to the murder of dolphins. Overfishing, on the other hand, is something that every part of the world is guilty of, and is quickly bringing our oceanic ecosystem to the brink of collapse.

A trawler at work

While Japan blamed whales on the declining population of various fish species, the reality is that humans have been picking away at the ecosystem for a long time. Bottom trawling in Europe, Japan, China, and the United States has been destroying the environment as well as taking fish away from small-town fishing businesses. For example, European trawlers in Moroccan waters have been taking resources away from Africans that depend on the availability of fish. Not only that, but “more than 90% of the fish caught by EU freezer-trawlers off Morrocco and Mauretania is exported to countries outside the EU, such as China, Egypt, Nigeria and Thailand.” (source) Exporting fish is a business that’s as huge as catching the fish in the first place, and the Tsukiji fish market provides lobster and other common local fish species to numerous places in and out of Japan. Sushi, especially, is in high demand and a Japanese staple, meaning that fish is consumed at an incredible rate in comparison to other sources of meat.

The Tsukiji Fish Market

Overfishing is an incredibly difficult problem to tackle, which is why it’s a lot easier to focus on issues that deal with emotions as opposed to logic. It’s easy to say, for example, that killing dolphins is wrong and we should be studying them instead. A combination of population growth and the need to make profits is the reason for overfishing, and obviously controlling population growth is a problem that no one wants to touch. Fish is a staple for many people throughout Asia and the Middle East, and suddenly cutting off the supply to such a popular food for the sake of letting the population expand again is almost out of the question. Millions of people across the world are starving as it is. Chances are that it will take a serious ecosystem collapse, one that stretches across the expanse of the entire globe and affects everyone, to get people to do something about a problem that plagues our society.

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5 thoughts on “The Problem of Overfishing

  1. Overfishing is indeed a huge problem and one that has an available solution; one that some places have attempted to implement. China, for instance, leads the market in fish hatcheries with other countries attempting their hand at fish farms. The problem lies in providing food for underdeveloped countries. I don’t understand why the world couldn’t provide not just food, but also jobs to these countries by installing and managing more fish farms throughout the world. It would reduce the stress we’re putting on the ocean’s ecosystem and provide the world with a ready and replenish-able food source.

  2. We tend to consume more than we actually need to and we waste a lot of food because of it. Like overfishing, if there isn’t a whole lot of people needing fish at that point, that is wasted amount of food and needless amount of fish lives taken.

  3. I am an advocate for fish farming, and have signed some kind of petition on overfishing many years ago. Even so, however, it still strikes a moral chord when it comes to what should and should not be done. It’s a difficult situation to tackle indeed, as many of us, especially in Asia, rely on fish for food.

  4. I think that consumers need to look into alternatives to lessen the strain off the various fish populations that are threatened by overfishing, at least until we can find a solution or give them time to increase their numbers. I agree that fish farming is a great way to do this but I don’t think there’s any chance that consumers are going to slow down their consumption of fish anytime soon, so it would be hard to keep up with the demand.

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