How Sustainable Fishing Practices Help
According to legend, cod were once so abundant in the Atlantic that you could walk across the ocean on their backs. The fish has been an important foodstuff throughout history--the Vikings, Portuguese empire, and early North American colonists all relied on cod.
Over the years, cod were fished to the point of being endangered. Today, they are classified as “vulnerable.” In the last few decades we’ve seen similar issues with wild salmon, swordfish, bluefin tuna, and herring.
Fish has always played an important role in the human diet, but as the population grows and the need for abundant food sources increases, fish populations have declined. Sustainable fishing practices can help species threatened by overfishing bounce back.
Fish like cod and bluefin tuna can take many years to reach maturity before they start breeding. If too many of them are caught before they mature, they don’t have a chance to reproduce. Because the fish aren’t able to replenish their numbers, the population stays low.
Sustainable fishing includes selective catching methods that focus only on adult fish, which gives them more time to breed before they’re caught.
Selective catching also prevents other species from being caught accidentally. Cod, for example, feed on smaller fish like herring. Without selective catching, cod were being caught in huge numbers along with their prey, the herring. This limited a valuable food source for cod, lowering their numbers further.
Selective catching avoids that issue and preserves a more balanced range of sealife.
Reliable Job Creation
As many as 60 million people are employed in the fishing industry worldwide. Sustainable fishing protects job security for more of these workers by ensuring they have stock to fish from for years to come. During the collapse of the North Atlantic cod fishery, thousands faced instability and many lost their jobs.
Sustainable fishing provides job security and can help to maintain small fishing communities all over the world, especially in developing nations. These people, many working in small-scale operations, rely on fishing to feed their families. When governments clamp down on destructive fishing, they can protect these employees’ livelihoods.
The fishing industry creates a great deal of waste and uses a lot of energy, which has become a growing concern in an eco-conscious world. Destructive fishing methods include trawling, which involves indiscriminately catching huge quantities of fish in a very short span of time. To process all of that fish, large amounts of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) are pumped into the atmosphere. Worse, only 60% of these fish even make it into the food chain. The rest (including young fish and unwanted species) are thrown out.
Sustainable fishing is much more controlled. It’s a more environmentally conscious approach that produces less waste and uses less energy. Food waste is also greatly reduced, as the leftover bycatch (the discarded catch deemed unsuitable) is used to make fishmeal.