American Oceans
Why is overfishing bad?

Harmful Effects of Overfishing

Have you ever heard the phrase “there’s plenty of fish in the sea”? Well, as it turns out, there may not be. 

Due to overfishing, many species are at risk for serious damage and even extinction. Additionally, many of our ecosystems are threatened by this practice.

So what are the harmful effects of overfishing? When did it start? And what can we do to stop it?

Keep reading to find out!

What is Overfishing?

Fish being caught in net

As the name suggests, overfishing is the act of fishing too much. More specifically, overfishing means that the species of fish are being caught faster than they can reproduce.

This means the population of this species will continue to decrease as it cannot keep up with these rates of fishing. 

Believe it or not, overfishing started to become a problem over 1,000 years ago! As people began to consume marine species of fish, the fish industry continued to grow.

The higher demand for these fish led to the practice of overfishing.

Today, fisheries are the main cause of overfishing. This is because many fisheries have no regulations. 

In other words, they will continue to overfish despite the threats it poses. 

Consequences of Overfishing

So why is overfishing bad? Though it may seem like an insignificant problem, overfishing threatens the vitality of many marine species and even humans. 

Perhaps most obviously, overfishing puts the populations of certain fish species at risk for extinction. This is because, as mentioned above, overfishing prevents fish from reproducing at a rate fast enough to maintain regular numbers.

As these populations decrease, these species of fish also face other issues. Specifically, lower populations may force species to adapt differently.

For instance, overfished species will often change in size, start to mature at different points in their lifespan, and even begin to reproduce differently. 

Right now, some of the most overfished species include Atlantic bluefin tuna, Atlantic halibut, Monkfish, and Atlantic cod to name a few. 

The decrease in these fish populations not only causes problems for the species itself, but also their entire food chain. 

Many fish species are one of the main food sources for larger predators or marine animals. Additionally, these species help to keep other marine animal populations in check by feeding on them. 

In other words, if the number of fish continues to decline, other animals will be affected. More specifically, populations of species that prey on these fish will likely also decline.

On the other hand, species that these fish typically feed on will likely grow out of control. As these secondary species start to see their populations decline, their predators and prey will then be affected. 

Simply put, this is a cycle that repeats until every species in the food chain is affected. Further, this problem will only be amplified if any of these fish species go extinct. 

Other marine life that you may not expect to be affected by overfishing includes kelp and corals. As populations of certain fish species decline due to overfishing, other species that consume kelp can grow exponentially. 

Similarly, species that consume algae may decline from overfishing as well, leaving algae to overgrow and take over coral reefs. These two ecosystems are very delicate and are balanced by the populations of many species. 

Kelp forests and coral reefs not only house many species but also play important roles in the environment. It is vital that these ecosystems thrive to ensure the survival of humans. 

Likewise, overfishing also presents other threats to humans. Specifically, overfishing puts our health and the economy at risk.

As fisheries continue to overfish, it is unlikely they will be able to supply enough fish to meet the demands of our current society. 

This means that many communities that depend on fish as a main source of food will be left without food. 

Additionally, the fishing industry plays a large role in the economy. So, if the fishing industry dies down due to low fish populations, the economy will likely take a dive as well.

What We Can Do

Fish being caught in trawl

After learning about the serious threats overfishing poses, you may be wondering what we can do to limit overfishing or stop it completely. 

There are a few ways we can combat this dangerous practice. 

First and foremost, one way to stop overfishing is to make more marine areas protected. This would entail prohibiting fishing in certain areas of the oceans. 

Protecting certain areas would allow fish populations to be replenished and even recover.

Similarly, we can put more quotas on certain species. Some species already have these quotas and have been able to recover as a result.

Quotas basically allocate a specific number of a species that can be caught annually. This helps to prevent overfishing. 

Next, some have suggested banning trawling. Trawling is a fishing tactic that essentially involves dragging a large net through the ocean to catch as many fish as possible at once.

The problem is, many other animals are caught in the process, putting several species at risk. 

Similarly, some fisheries have begun to take on more sustainable practices. These practices catch fewer fish at once, preventing overfishing.

Though these approaches may help to prevent overfishing, you may be wondering what you can do personally to prevent overfishing. 

Well, the best way to prevent this practice is to share your knowledge with others. Additionally, you can donate to or join organizations that work against overfishing. 

As you can see, overfishing is a serious threat that we cannot continue to ignore as many forms of life are at risk. Be sure to continue to educate yourself and others about the dangers of overfishing. 

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