We talk the talk…man can we talk the talk! However, we must now swim the swim (or walk the walk for all you land lubbers out there)!
Human population growth does add pressure to the food availability in general, which gives birth to increased fishing (i.e. over-fishing); the birth of genetically modified food; and, increased use of pesticides to ensure the gorwth and survival of food crops. There are many other problems caused by human population growth; however, I would like to concentrate on over-fishing considering I am a marine ecologist.
Over-fishing is a huge problem, there is no doubt. But let’s take a look at the major affects of over-fishing:
1) Changes the ocean habitat community – meaning the large fish (sharks, tuna, grouper, cod) that once dominated the fish communities around the world are depleting quickly due to their size and taste causing the dynamic of the fish community to change altering food webs and degrading habitat (I’m talking about trawling right now).;
2) Bycatch becomes a major problem – Other fish and species (including threatened species) are caught along with the targeted species (the species people want to eat) causing them to die or critically injured. Catching non-targeted species on a long line will cause less targeted species to be caught, which inturn, will increase the amount of time a fisherman will fish. Instead of setting out a trawl or long line only once, he/she will do it more than once because there aren’t enough targeted fish caught. This will result in more bycatch during a vicious cycle.; and,
3) Habitat destruction – Trawls mostly run along the bottom of the Ocean to catch fish. Well, the habitat on the bottom of the Ocean is destroyed when a trawl net is dragged along. Loss of habitat could mean a los of shelter, spawning grounds, and food resources for other fish.
These problems can be solved. Marine Protected Areas have proven to be a great tool, once implemented and enforced properly to protect fish and habitat. Other tools such as variations in fishing gear can help reduce bycatch. Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) are great for making sure Sea Turtles don’t get caught in shrimp nets (when used properly) and the circle hook is a great device that allows marine mammals (whales and dolphins) to wiggle themselves off a hook in case they bite doen on some easy prey (you can find out more about circle hooks during my interview with Katherine McClellan).
My point of this post is to implement the tools out there that are available to decrease our effect on fish communities and the Ocean. The science shows MPAs and other tools are effective when implemented correctly…correctly, that is the key to all of this. for MPAs, all the people involved and affected by the MPA should agree on the implementation, rules, and regulations. In the cases where agreement is not unanimous, there must be a some sort of action…any action to get some sort of MPA in the water even if it is not regulated. Start the process similar to The Surfrider Foundation’s efforts to implement surfing MPAs. By adding MPAs we can see the effects of them on the habitats they are protecting. Let’s see how effective they are and move from there.
It’s easy to get caught up in the doom and gloom of marine conservation; however, the only way to change is to listen, learn, and act. So when you see a petition to implement an MPA…sing it! It will be the best long term plan for the environment and the people tied to it (as long as they all have a say in what happens in it!).
Just a few drops of water on your mind!