Plenty more fish in the sea?
Wednesday 10 June 2009
Despite starting in 1992, this year’s World Oceans Day celebrations were very special, as they the first to be officially recognised by the United Nations. This is a major breakthrough in conserving and protecting the marine environment.
The oceans are an essential part of the world we live in, providing food, oxygen and medicines, as well as being a part of many natural processes we rely upon.
However, we take the role the oceans play in our lives for granted all too easily, and more than ever they need our protection.
One example of how our actions are having catastrophic effects on the oceans and their inhabitants is overfishing.
Globally, fish accounts for the greatest proportion of protein that is consumed by humans. With such a high demand on this natural resource, many major fisheries – estimated to be greater than 70% - are being exploited at levels exceeding those that are sustainable.
Overfishing can reduce selected stock below levels that they can recover. As well as the catastrophic effects this can have on ecosystems and food-webs, it can severely affect livelihoods and economies.
Fish farming has been adopted as a method of meeting the demands of fish as a food source, but when poorly managed it can cause many problems including pollution, damage to the health of wild fish and creating ‘hotspots’ for disease.
Developing and adopting sustainable fisheries is not simply a case of catching less and more selectively.
Coastal ecosystems such as coral reefs and mangroves provide habitat and feeding for a huge number of marine species, and almost 95% of the ocean’s productivity originates from these areas. Consequently, the destruction of these ecosystems can have a huge effect on marine fisheries.
Environmental destruction and increasing land and water scarcity are threatening inland fish population and diversity. The effects of industry, urban development, forestry and agriculture can seriously harm aquatic environments, and threaten fish production.
ZSL’s ecosystem approach: Marine Protected Areas
All these factors highlight that it is essential an ecosystem approach is taken when assessing the state of fish stocks.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have limited or no fishing or farming and allow populations of marine species to thrive relatively undisturbed – effectively preserving vulnerable areas. ZSL is working towards developing MPAs in locations around the world.
Find out more information on ZSL's conservation activities in the Marine and Freshwater environment .