Overfishing

More and more people eat more and more fish (see: fish dilemma). As a result, the world oceans are depleted. Although numerous fish populations are already close to extinction, high-tech conventional industrial fishing fleets keep on scouring the oceans and catch more fish of a population than can be reproduced.

Their often non-selective and destructive fishing practices put nearly all marine creatures at danger: Many million tons of them are thrown overboard every year as unexploited by-catch, dead or dying. According to estimates of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in addition to the approx. 90 million tons of marketable fish, several million tons of by-catch end up in the giant nets every year – including juvenile fish, whales, dolphins, sea birds, and sharks. On top of that, common fishing techniques destroy the marine environment.

Today’s conventional fishing practices and their dangers

Shark finning

Longline fishing also serves the purpose of shark finning. This technique involves cutting off the dorsal fin of the caught (and still living!) sharks. Afterwards, the animals are thrown back into the sea where they bleed to death and drown. The cut-off shark fins are used to make shark fin soup, which is considered a delicacy notably in Asian countries. Blue sharks and oceanic whitetip sharks are the main targets of longlines. In this way, up to 100 million sharks die a painful death every year. The actual fin does not taste like anything at all and is often cooked in chicken soup...

Furthermore, sharks are caught and killed for their dentures, their teeth, their leathery skin, as well as cosmetic ingredients. On the French island La Réunion in the Indian Ocean, living dogs and cats are used as bait for shark fishing. Fishermen stick fish hooks through their snouts and paws and simply cast them into the water.

Dead shark without fins (Picture: Seashepherd)

Whaling

Norway, Japan, and South Korea are countries that, despite a global moratorium, still hold on to whaling today. As a pretext, they refer to the fact that it is legal to catch whales for the purpose of research. In this way, they have killed more than 25,000 whales since 1986. Their meat is sold profitably on the market. It is a tortuous fishing method and whale meat is often of inferior quality and entirely unfit for human consumption due to its high share of heavy metals.

Hunt

In the Japanese bay of Taiji, up to 15,000 dolphins and small cetaceans are slaughtered as part of a festive traditional ceremony every year that takes place from September to January. Their blood often colors the ocean red for many days.

Between April and July, when pilot whales visit the cooler waters around the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic to bear and raise their young, the inhabitants of the half-autonomous island state organize a whale hunt in which thousands of them are driven into bays and killed with knives and hooks. Their meat, highly contaminated with mercury and PCB, is later distributed among the inhabitants.

Environmental pollution

Environmental pollution, caused by the discharging of untreated wastewater and garbage contained within, dumping, the industry – i.e. crude oil and natural gas production and resulting accidents like oil pests –, tanker accidents, and disasters involving oil platforms or mineral extraction, poses a threat to all the oceans and their inhabitants.

Noise pollution

Whales and dolphins are increasingly confronted with noise in their habitats (building sites on the coast, shipping traffic, etc.). As they are highly dependent on their fine hearing and their susceptible echo sounder to explore their surroundings, to search for food, and to communicate, there is a direct link between the high amount of noise pollution, the resulting malfunctioning of their echo sounders, and the stranding of countless whales and dolphins.

The growing shipping traffic also contributes to noise pollution; moreover, collisions of ships with whales and dolphins are not uncommon in highly frequented maritime regions. The northern right whale, also called the black or Biscayan right whale, is particularly threatened by shipping traffic as it is exceptionally slow and thus cannot dodge fast ships and boats in time.

Acidification

The acidification of the oceans via an accumulation of CO2 in the water (from the atmosphere) reduces their calcium carbonate content, which is needed by corals, mussels, and crustaceans to build their shells and skeletons.


Countermeasures against overfishing and alternatives to conventional fishing


The Ocean: a gigantic and interconnected ecosystem

The ocean is a gigantic and interconnected ecosystem that covers about 70% of the earth’s surface. The Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean as well as the Arctic Ocean and the Antarctic Ocean are linked together by ocean currents. In addition, there are smaller inland seas, such as the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, as well as the Mediterranean Sea, the Caspian Sea, and the Black Sea. Inland seas are side arms of former oceans.

The different regions of the oceans are subdivided into four groups according to their water temperature: polar, cold temperate, warm temperate, and tropical. The ocean’s habitat is divided into two larger categories, the pelagic Zone, also called the high sea, and the benthic zone on the seabed.

Sun is life

Biodiversity is determined by the sunlight. The uppermost water layer is flooded with enough light which contributes to photosynthesis in plants. It is called the euphotic zone and extends downwards to a water depth of 200 meters. This zone is were most living beings are found. It is home to whales, sharks, and all sorts of fish. From a depth of 200 to 1,000 meters, the light becomes weaker and no longer suffices for plants to grow. This zone is called the disphotic zone. From 1,000 meters onwards, it is pitch black. This aphotic zone is the preferred habitat of deep-sea animals. Prevailing temperatures average at 4°C.

The open sea begins where the shelf seas end. This is where the ocean floor drops down to the deep-sea plains. It is home to the oceanic whitetip shark, different tuna species, as well as numerous whale species who are still threatened by whaling nowadays. In the deep sea, only few species can survive given its inhospitable conditions. However, they are severely threatened by deep-sea fishing with bottom trawls.

The polar seas – the Arctic and the Antarctic Ocean – are the oceans located at the poles. This is where ocean life is regulated by ice.

The North

The Arctic Ocean, also called the North Polar Sea, is the smallest ocean of the world. It is enclosed by Russia, Asia, North America, and Greenland and covered with a thick layer of ice during most of the year. Is is the habitat of polar bears, walruses, seals, and whales as well as the target of deep-sea fisheries and the greed of crude oil companies due to its sizable oil and gas resources. Previously, the North Pole was the hunting ground for English, Dutch and German whalers.

The South

The Antarctic Ocean, also called the South Pole or Southern Ocean, is the ocean located around the continent Antarctica and the second smallest ocean after the North Polar Sea. This is where the biggest penguin species, the emperor penguin, lives under hostile conditions. Even today, countless whales are caught by the Japanese every summer when the pack ice retreats.

The Atlantic Ocean

The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean and covers more than a fifth of the earth. It is also the youngest ocean and expands by about 25 mm every year. Many large rivers flow into the Atlantic, such as the Mississippi, the Amazon River originating from South and North America, as well as the Congo and Niger rivers originating from West Africa. The Rhine, the Loire, and the Elbe flow into the Atlantic Ocean from the European continent. It is also connected to the Mediterranean Sea via the Straits of Gibraltar and to the North Sea via the English Channel. The Atlantic Ocean is home to countless fish populations due to its nutrient-rich waters above the continental shelf; however, they are close to collapse due to overfishing.

The warm waters of the South Atlantic is where the best-known great white shark population lives, around the South African “Seal Island”. Great whites are exposed to severe hunting, which, among other things, is due to their bad reputation.

The Indian Ocean

Cape Horn is where the Atlantic meets the Indian Ocean. The latter is completely bounded by the Asian land mass to the north. Moreover, it is the only ocean whose main current, the Somali Current, changes direction with the seasons. Commercial industrial fishing in the Indian Ocean poses a threat to local fishermen and destroys coral reefs through overfishing.

The Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean as well as the birthplace of numerous earthquakes due to its “ring of fire”. Tectonic plate movements break open the deepest trenches of the earth. The Pacific Ocean comprises among other things the Hawaiian Islands and the Galapagos Islands with their unique flora and fauna. Both archipelagos still show volcanic activity today and keep on growing. The Pacific is home to numerous fish populations and of high significance for the crude oil and natural gas industry. Its inhabitants are severely threatened, in particular by illegal fishing. The Sea of Japan, bordering the Pacific Ocean, is the hub of the shark fin industry.


Responsible for the content: Ridehere-Ridenow, Association for Conscious Living in the Here and Now, ZVR: 437983246