When you think of major sustainability issues plaguing our nation and our society, you think of pollution, climate change, plastic straws, and grocery bags. While certainly important to address, there is one sustainability issue that has gone under the radar.
Often overlooked and under-discussed are the issues with commercial fishing. Commercial fishing plays a crucial role in feeding consumers across the world, but, this $144 billion dollar industry receives as much as $35 billion dollars a year in government subsidies worldwide.
Subsidizing a mature industry like commercial fishing has artificially inflated demand, leading to overfishing. Overfishing is nothing more than the world’s response to a growing need for more fish. Three billion people rely on fish as their primary source of protein and as a result, certain regions of the world have depleted more than 90% of their population of fish, according to some studies.
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This has consequences even beyond the actual fish population and environmental sustainability issues. Overfishing hurts oceanside communities that have been sustainably fishing their water for hundreds of years, and who rely on fishing as their primary means of commerce.
Mass commercial fishing is also having an impact. Today, ships plow through the water with giant trawling nets which can, unfortunately, lead to other sea life getting caught. Meanwhile, the boats throw fishing tech, nets, and hooks overboard and unintentionally kill thousands of sea turtles every year in U.S. waters alone.
What is the Solution?
There are efforts in place to prevent overfishing but it all starts with awareness.
Technology is also playing an important role. Through the use of better tracking, government officials can keep better tabs on ships to monitor how much they’re catching and where they’re fishing.
Companies like Fishtek Marine have created a device to prevent bycatch. It allows fishermen to put a sonar device on their nets that emits a sound only sea mammals can hear. It forces them to stay away from the nets so they don’t get caught in them.
The Aquaculture Stewardship Council is a very popular nonprofit organization that certifies fisheries and ships that produce their products in a sustainable way. You’ll find an ASC seal of approval on fish from companies that meet these guidelines.
Beyond that, they’re also a pioneer in setting standards for the social and environmental impacts of fish farming and the lower-quality fish being put out by countries across the globe.
There is very little that each one of us can do about overfishing, but it all starts with awareness. Spreading the word about the dangers of overfishing and educating others on what they can do can go a long way in reducing overfishing, especially in the United States.
This article was produced based on an overfishing report by Coty Perry from Anglers.com.