Global fish populations are disappearing at an extremely rapid rate, and we are the reason.
According to recent studies, if fish populations keep declining at their current pace, by 2050 every single wild fish species will have its population reduced to around 10 percent of what it was before human intervention.
Fish have fed humans for as long as we have been around, and have long been taken for granted as a constant, readily available resource. For example, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson claims to consume more than 800 pounds of cod each year on his own.
Written accounts from as recent as the 1800s speak of enormous, seemingly endless supplies of fish in waterways all over the world. This is no longer the case. Although we live in a world with incredible technologies and conveniences, this is not the golden age of fishing. In fact, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization states that around a third of all fish species are being fished to the brink of extinction.
Unfortunately, this does not mean that the other species are doing fine. It appears that humans have perfected the art of fishing to a high degree for such a long amount of time that we may soon wipe wild fish off the planet if we continue unchecked.
It is time to act in order to save Earth’s wild fish. Recognizing this fact, many governments and businesses have developed ways of farming the fish we need in order to help take some pressure off wild populations.
It is estimated that fish farms account for around half of the fish eaten today. Tuna, cod, halibut, salmon and trout are some of the most commonly farmed fish, mostly due to their consumer market attraction.
Two main methods of farming prevail in the industry – fish are either raised from infancy in man-made environments, or juveniles are captured in the wild and then brought to specialized farms that fatten them up.
Unfortunately, most fish used in these operations are not efficient, sustainable or eco-friendly to farm for several reasons. First off, many fish found on a plate are dangerous predators in their natural environments. In order to keep these gilled hunters happy and fed, some farms feed their crop wild-caught feeder fish.
This can defeat some of the deep underlying purpose of fish farming, as it leads to depleted populations in these smaller fish, which then ripples upwards throughout their environment.
Most apex predators also suffer from a condition known as bioaccumulation. Tiny microorganisms can sometimes come into contact with and ingest plastics, pesticides or other poisons.
These organisms are then eaten by small fish, who are eaten by larger fish. Predatory fish slowly accumulate the toxins they eat inside of their bodies, adding to the toxins they also come into contact with.
This effect works its way up the food chain, and apex predatory fish tend to accumulate a large amount of toxins due to the fact that their prey is often contaminated.
By farming fish lower on the food chain than apex predators, food sources with lower toxicity can be used, such as small organisms or even algae.
Most small fry also tend to convert their food into muscle and fat more efficiently than predators higher on the food chain, leading to reduced costs overall.
New techniques are being used to combat fish farm waste as well, including the use of bi-valves and other organisms to clean up after hours.
In order to help prevent the loss of our wild fish, locate a sustainable fish farm and try to consume farmed fish whenever possible over wild-caught.
Brannen Basham and his wife, Jill Jacobs, operate Spriggly’s Beescaping, a business dedicated to the preservation of pollinators. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.