Discuss the causes of overfishing and evaluate the attempts to remedy this problem
Discuss the causes of overfishing and evaluate the attempts to remedy this problem
Every day, two thirds of the world’s population around the world rely on fish and seafood as a direct source of nutrition or a means of income. Now, more than ever before, our oceans are under pressure to meet the needs of growing populations in developing countries and a growing appetite for fish and seafood in developed nations. Overfishing occurs when fish and other marine species are caught at a rate faster than they can reproduce. We now know without a doubt that the fish in the ocean are a finite resource. Many marine scientists now believe that overfishing is the biggest threat to the ocean environment, even greater than that of other human caused disruptions like increasing pollution. The high demand for fish, along with more effective fishing techniques, has lead to many species of fish around the world being depleted, making them commercially extinct. Overfishing is a phenomenon that bears a striking resemblance to many ongoing actions undertaken by major industries, whether from deforestation to extracting oil, it seems to keep occurring and reoccurring despite the approximately 70% of the worlds stocks that are in need of management. Even with project fish populations to be fully depleted by 2048 according to the FAO, fishing still remains at a constant 75 million catches per year despite such obvious warnings given.
Of the nation's 267 major fish stocks, roughly 20% are either already overfished, experiencing overfishing, or approaching an overfished condition. This rate of overfishing has not primarily been due to the growing numbers of fishermen and fishing boats across the world. One of the primary causes of overfishing is simple; the rate of fishing at its current rate now has resulted in a downward spiral of fishing efficiency. In the past several decades, fishing was not a sustainable global project because fishermen were unable to access every location and this stemmed primarily from low tech approaches to fishing, due to a large number of people fishing for subsistence purposes. Today however, much of the subsistence fishing has changed, with small trawlers and fishing boats being replaced by enormous factory ships which capture and process thousands of fish at one time. Some of the nets attached to these industrial ships are capable of holding up to 20,000 fish in one go across sea beds. These ships have drastically changed into modernized marvels compared to the small boats of decades before. The industrial ships come equipped with advanced technological equipment such as sonar instruments and GPS radar to rapidly locate thousands of fish several hundred kilometres below sea. Some of the fishing lines are even able to be deployed to areas which are more than 120 km deep. The large trawler vessels are even able to store enormous volumes of fish reaching 4000 tons, a far cry from the 100 tons the small trawlers which still continue to fish today. Essentially, these industrial ships have driven out many of the developing countries’ fisherman and take what in reality are actually the citizens of those countries. These industrial ships have revolutionized fishing and now fishermen are able to explore deeper and more remote waters in search of fish to support the increasing demand of fish from the estimated two thirds of the world which rely on fish for protein.
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These foreign fishing companies which command much of these 'Super Trawlers' are essentially no match for many of the local fisheries in many developing countries. Fishermen have every reason to do something. Many fisheries are on a downward spiral towards collapse; stocks of large fish have been reduced by up to 90%. The issue of overfishing, particularly by foreign vessels, was very low on the international community's radar when the government of Somalia collapsed in the 1990s.The combination of rich fishing opportunities and a complete lack of focus of the government to its police force in its waters drew fleets from countries near and distant, setting the stage for the instability to come. The greatest harm was done by European and Asian vessels that swarmed the fisheries off Somalia's coast.
When the Somalia's fish populations were near finished, the international ships moved on. But local fishermen obviously could not. As economies along the coast collapsed, whole communities of Somalis became jobless, hungry and willing to exploit any of the assets they had, which were boats with a launching point into one of the world's most important commercial sea lanes. What would seem unthinkable to many Somali residents just a short time before, transforming small fishing boats into pirate vessels has now since become a way of life. According to another UN report, an estimated $300 million worth of seafood is stolen from the country's coastline each year. This is the devastating issue that has plagued the fishing industry for years. These foreign fishing fleets have been unstoppable and continue to fish however they please, despite such warnings of dangerously low levels in many fish species. A 2006 study published in the journal Science predicted that the current rate of commercial fishing would virtually empty the world's oceanic stocks by 2050. Yet, Somalia's seas still offer a particularly fertile zone for tuna, sardines and mackerel, and other species of seafood, including lobsters and sharks. These foreign fishing fleets have become savvy opportunists by taking advantage of these lawless, lightly enforced coastlines and maximize their potential profits by driving out the local fisherman which rightfully in many views, own the complete rights to the fish. There is such a lack of control in Somalia that the fish populations have reduced 75% over the past 10 years due to foreign fleets fishing illegally on these waters.
In the face of this, impoverished Somalis living by the sea have been forced over the years to defend their own fishing expeditions out of ports such as Eyl, Kismayo, and Harardhere, which are now considered to be pirate gathering areas. Somali fishermen, whose industry earns up to 40% of Somalia's GDP, was and has always continued to be small-scale, lacking the advanced boats and technologies of their unwanted competitors, and have also claimed of being shot at by foreign fishermen with water cannons and firearms to scare these fisherman away. However, I do believe that this concept of coastline enforcement of these Somali pirates is a misleading interpretation of many people. These pirates are not made up of terrorist groups or religious clans; rather they consist of local fisherman demanding their fish be protected. The names of existing pirate fleets, such as the National Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia or Somali Marines, are testament to the pirates' initial motives, which is to drive out foreign fleets that are in reality, illegally fishing in Somali waters.
In 2009 when this graph was constructed by the IMB, Somalia accounted for 92% of all boat seizures across the world. This has been the direct action due to the overfishing of many of these foreign fleets. However when observing this chart, it is evident that many of this pirates have taken advantage of this opportunity and have used it negatively to forcefully drive out many of these seafarers. The brutality is so vicious that there are more than a 120 attacks on seafarers compared to major assaults in South Africa. These pirates are equipped with heavy machinery, RPGS, and assault rifles, however what have ultimately done is create an international security crisis rather than an effective, responsible way of managing the fisheries in Somalia. Despite the people serving as the 'coastguards' of the coastlines of Somalia, it does not mean that violence should become an active technique to try and stabilize fish populations.
However there is no reliable reporting system in Somalia to gauge the full impact of piracy on Somali citizens and communities. In all there seems to be a lack of reporting on the second-order effects of piracy on Somali communities, nor is there any reporting system to document deaths and injuries amongst the Somali perpetrators that occur during the act of the crimes. It is very evident that there is a mismatch of priorities between the international community and the Somali people. They are not exactly 'enforcing' these waters in a responsible manner and seem to use violence as an ulterior motive.
However to understand the correct techniques in truly efficiently enforcing fishing regulations, the key is to look at one of the most well managed fishing systems in the world, and that is controlled by Iceland. The fishing industry is one of the main pillars of the Icelandic economy just as it is the same for Somalia. However there is a key difference between the enforcement of restricted fishing in Somalia and Iceland. The main difference is that in Iceland, there are responsible fisheries at the Icelandic fishing grounds which are the conditions for the Icelandic fishing industry continuing to be a solid part of the Icelandic economy and a principal pillar in Iceland’s exports.
Icelanders have structured a fisheries management system to ensure responsible fisheries, by focusing on the sustainable usage of the fish stocks and good treatment of the marine ecosystem. Iceland's regulations establishing a 200 mile economic exclusion zone, and to limit it cod catch to 50,000 tons, but setting boundaries and restrictions for foreign fishing fleets is not the only solution in preventing these boats to catch more fish. Iceland has also deployed in total of 12 Polish-made trawlers equipped with GPS and sonar to monitor the number of its major fish species weekly. With Iceland relying on the fish industry for 83% of their GDP, it is essential that it must be heavily protected. The fisheries management in Iceland is primarily based on extensive research on the fish stocks and the marine ecosystem; decisions made on the conduct of fishing fleets and controlled catches on the basis of scientific advice, and effective monitoring and enforcement of the fisheries and the total catch. These are the main pillars of the Icelandic fisheries management intended to ensure responsible fisheries and the sustainability of the ocean’s natural resources. This management may well be just as strict as the sternness the Somalis show to foreign fishing fleets, however, Icelanders have created an effective and organized manner of fishing management that demands responsibility from foreign fishing companies.
This demand of responsibility through correct enforcement is what will potentially save out fish species of today. It is not about enforcing restrictions through threats or potential violence, but by creating a management system which has a tight grip over fishing regulations, however, in Somalia's disadvantage, it's lack of capital to invest in these public services is what not only prevents them from tapping into a huge local fish industry, but also just protecting the basic rights these people have over their fish.