As environmental awareness grows across the globe, there is one area of sustainability we don’t hear much about – the threat of overfishing. It is an area that has made great strides toward permanently reducing the risk of running out of fish.
I recently met with a man who spoke with such reassuring positivity around the fact that overfishing has reached an all-time low over the past few years. He is the coordinator for the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Commercial Fishermen and he takes his job very seriously.
He said, ‘The commercial fishing industry has been under fire for decades as they make the professionals that work in the industry sound like barbarians or pirates. This isn’t the case.’
Now, I can tell you as someone who has written many articles on various sites purveying doom and gloom for commercial fishermen, it was refreshing to hear someone in the industry say this.
He also reported that fish stock is recovering at a rapid rate with only 7 percent of reported US fish stocks currently in ‘overfished’ status.
The NOAA can confirm this. But what, exactly, does it mean when a fish stock is overfished, and what is a fish stock?
Fish stocks are subpopulations of particular species used to produce a certain edible food that is mass consumed. These fish populations are isolated from the majority of wild-caught fish but they’re not quite at the level of a farmed fish either. They’re contained with plenty of space and the amount of fishing that occurs in these spaces is intended to be controlled by regulation.
Overfishing occurs when the demand for fish outweighs the population’s ability to reproduce and thrive. This is an issue we’ve been dealing with for quite some time.
With the growth and advancement of fishing technology, GPS, and more money being pumped into the industry, it’s easy to see why the commercial fishing industry has been able to abuse their power for so long.
But I believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Reduced overfishing will result in less fishing being required to catch the same amount of fish. Due to the fact that we’ve exhausted many resources, we have to fish harder to catch the same amount as before. Ending overfishing will increase the resilience of the fish stock and improve the overall marine ecosystem which has endless positive benefits including reduced CO2 and improved oxygen levels in the water resulting in a more comfortable environment for the fish.
Less overfishing will also help reduce habitat degradation which happens as a result of hazardous fishing practices. Massive nets trawl through the water destroying coral, seamounts, and seagrass. These are essential components of the aquatic ecosystem and with reduced overfishing, they’re able to recover and provide a safe home for fish to live.
While we’re not quite there yet, the Coordinator for the NW Council says the efforts are working. Rights-based management is one of those efforts.
This is a policy put in place to:
- Limit fishing to when the weather is ideal for catching fish.
- Space the season throughout the year rather than short bursts.
- Incentivise fishermen to follow the rules to gain shares of growing fish stock.
This is a far cry from traditional management that jams entire years of fishing into a few days which promotes hazardous practices and dangerous fishing policies.
The overall outlook for fish stocks in America is bright. The industry received $300 million as a result of the CARES Act, overfishing is at an all-time low, and policies are being put in place to incentivise sustainable practices rather than ignorant ones.
My conversation with the NW Council made me realise that no matter how much negative you see in an industry whether it’s fishing, hunting, law enforcement, or whatever it may be; what you see doesn’t define everyone. There are great people doing amazing work to make fishing more sustainable every day.
Read the full article on the fight against over-fishing here.
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