Over the turn of the century, as humans have become more developed, overfishing has become an increasingly common practice that has been hurting our ocean’s food web wandhas led to an overall decrease in our ocean’s biomass. Since our society has a demand for marine food and products, this has caused an instance where we fish marine species faster than they can be naturally replenished; this is what causes overfishing. This practice has a common trend in which some fish and aquatic mammals are specifically being targeted more than others.
Since overfishing is not as being regulated as it should be, it has been an increasing problem for the marine environment; especially for the food web. If we continue this practice, this will further continue to cause disorder to the marine food web and cause an even further decline in oceanic biomass.
The increase in fishing is mainly attributed to the demand for food and products that originate from marine organisms for economic purposes.
Typically, island nations and nations that border the ocean use fishing as a source of national income by selling their supply of fish to nations or businesses. That generates income for the nation. Paired with that, the effectiveness of catching fish has also gone up over time with our current peak efficiency from modern ships, fishing nets, businesses, and employees which have led to larger catches and a faster pace of fishing. Consumer demand for seafood is also at an all-time high as can be seen through the overall business evaluation at over 113 billion dollars year-to-date (globenewswire.
com). With all these parts playing a factor, the pace and commonality of fishing have reached unsustainable levels for the ocean causing overfishing as we are removing marine organisms faster than they can naturally replenish. It is this practice that has led to a decreased overall oceanic biomass of 80% in the last 120 years since 1900 (Lempinen, aaas.org). The most common aquatic organisms being targeted are predators between the middle and top of a food chain which is mainly predators. Mammals like whales, sharks, seals, and sea lions and fish like tuna, herring, and salmon are all being most targeted, fished, and then consumed. Since all species of each food chain are interdependent, declining the population of or completely eradicating the population of one organism will impact other species who are dependent on the overfished organism. For example, in 2004, the U.K. published a study about the overfishing of herring between eastern Britain and Scandinavia. The study concluded that the decline in the population of herring directly affected the population of cod, sharks, and small crustaceans in the Atlantic Ocean. As the population of herring decreased, the population of small crustaceans, like krill, increased and the population of cod and sharks decreased. This is because all three of these creatures are linked to herring within the food web. Cruestations are food for herring, herring is food for cod, and codes are food for sharks. This shows how affecting one species of fish directly affects the population of other organisms directly affiliated with it both higher and lower down on the food chain as well as outside of the food chain because sharks are outside of that food chain and are only linked through the marine food web. (Owens, utexas.edu)
Human regulation of overfishing has been sub-par leading to the current catastrophe that the marine food web is currently experiencing. The current enforcers and regulators of overfishing are the Federal Fisheries using annual catching limits on nations (fisheries.noaa.gov).
While this does a mediocre job at regulating the fishing done by nations, this does not include any boats/ships that do not operate for a country or international waters. Since international waters do not belong to any jurisdiction or under any control, overfishing is not being regulated in international waters. Sea vessels that do not operate under a jurisdiction like ones owned and operated by citizens, there are no regulations on them causing them to take as much fish as they desire without repercussion by federal fisheries (unpd.org) causing harm to the marine food chain and an overall decrease in the ocean’s biomass. The best way to fix this problem is to establish regulations for commercial fishing and laws for international waters so that fishing regulations will be more powerful which will stop or slow the pace of overfishing.
Our continuation of the harmful practice of overfishing has been killing the marine food web. Its commonality of it stems from an economic standpoint of businesses and nations.
Our high-efficiency fishing gear and techniques have led to fishing faster than the ocean can replenish. The targeting of larger organisms higher on the food chain causes an imbalance between predator and prey affecting affiliated food chains and the web as a whole. Overfishing is not being regulated enough as federal fisheries do not regulate commercial vessels or international water fishing. Establishing rules and laws for commercial vessels and international water fishing will help the current state of our marine food web. Should we continue to pursue our actions and take faster than the ocean can provide, the decreasing oceanic biomass will come back full circle on us as we will have a less sustainable ocean and an absence of seafood.