Population Punch: How Humans Are Changing Oceanic Diversity
by rwolach on September 25, 2015 - 11:43pm
The continued decline of fish stocks through the overfishing of the world’s oceans is well known within biological circles, and is bluntly described through the article “Tuna and Mackerel Populations Suffer Catastrophic 74% Decline, Research Shows”, written by Fiona Harvey. This short yet informative article engages the public on a subject that many believe to be unrelated to their daily lives, yet in reality, is an extremely important social and environmental issue for all.
As outlined by Harvey, severe overfishing has depleted global fish stocks almost to extinction, and without a drastic change in our consumer habits, we will be facing an enormous food scarcity issue. The piece highlights the immense decline in marine populations, such as a 98% decline in sea cucumber populations in the Galapagos, and aims to garner public interest in protecting endangered marine species through awareness and contributing to sustainable fishing industry. Louise Heaps, the chief advisor on marine policy at the World Wildlife Fund UK, describes the scientific implications of declining fish populations, as well as how wildlife management plans, sustainable industry, protection of marine ecosystems, better relations between government and fishermen, and consumer awareness can help minimize the effects of overfishing. Vast amounts of research has been conducted on this issue, further supporting the statistics presented throughout the article.
From personal experience, I find that many people believe that the issues surrounding marine species decline aren’t as crucial as they are portrayed in the media. For example, I recently visited a restaurant in British Columbia, Canada, and was very surprised to see Bluefin tuna on the menu. Bluefin tuna would be considered a flow, or renewable, resource that is currently in the critical zone, if not already a classified stock resource, because of its estimated 96% population decline (McCurry, 2015). I never expected to see an endangered species on a menu in Canada, and following our discussions in class, I have started thinking about what kinds of conflict may be involved in the thought processes surrounding the decision to continue serving endangered species. I believe an interest conflict is prevalent in this scenario because there seems to be disconnect between who benefits from the harvesting of fish and who ends up paying for the depletion of resources. Consumers demand a continual supply of fish, but don’t think that their evening meal will contribute to the overall decline of a species. The ones ‘paying’ for this continual harvesting is society as a whole. As we continue to harvest fish further down the food chain, a whole myriad of biological issues will occur, and those changes in the ecosystem will eventually affect us all, regardless of how little fish we eat personally. If we do not mitigate for these effects through sustainable harvesting and consuming alternative protein sources, the resulting crash of ocean ecosystems could be irreversible.
I would also like to touch on what I find to be an interesting point in the way media brings attention to the overfishing situation. Many articles discussing the effects of overfishing on the human population use food security as a driving point in why society should think about their fish intake in a more sustainable way. The loss of biodiversity around the globe should also be of great concern.
All in all, the article presents a clear argument that numerous aquatic species are at risk of extinction if no action is taken to minimize our impacts on the ocean ecosystems we depend on. Management plans and sustainable harvesting and purchasing are portrayed as crucial elements to slow these extinctions, and I could not agree more.
Harvey, F. (2015, Sept. 16). Tuna and mackerel populations suffer catastrophic 74% decline, research shows. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/sep/15/tuna-and-mackerel-pop...
McCurry, J. (2015, Sept. 3). Warning over Pacific Bluefin tuna stocks as Japan meeting ends in stalemate. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/sep/04/warning-over-pacific-...