The importance of sustainable fisheries for ocean conservation

Sustainable fisheries

Communities around the world rely on fishing as an essential source of nutrition and food and for their livelihoods. To put that into perspective, over a third of the worldwide population relies on seafood alone as a source of protein and wild capture fisheries employ 38 million people. 

However, unsustainable fishing practices like excessive bycatch, unregulated fishing activities, and overfishing are putting our oceans at risk. Sustainability strategies are key to protecting the planet and individuals’ livelihoods. Keep reading to discover the important role sustainable fisheries can play in ocean conservation. 

What are sustainable fisheries? 

A fishery refers to an area where fish are caught for recreational or commercial purposes. With this in mind, sustainable fisheries are those spaces that prioritise sustainable fishing practices. Researchers determine how many fish can be captured safely without impacting the future health of the stock.

This entails gathering data on the size of the stock, when and where the species spawn and how many juveniles will make it to adulthood. Additionally, they assess environmental factors that can impact the stock. Other management measures can be incorporated to protect stocks from overfishing. These include setting size limits to protect juveniles and prohibiting fishing during spawning seasons. 

One crucial aspect of sustainable fishing involves adopting precautionary measures like harvest control rules. These rules require catches to be reduced if the stock population suddenly declines. This is quite important when stocks are being shared by numerous different countries. Ultimately, a collective effort is needed to prevent overfishing. Fish stocks can be more abundant when fisheries are operated sustainably.

The importance of sustainable fisheries

Over a third of worldwide fisheries have been fished beyond sustainable limits. Not to mention, world demand for seafood only continues to grow. Sustainable fisheries and fishing practices can play a major role in transforming this. Utilising these practices, we can reverse the decline and make sure enough fish remain in the sea.

So, how can fisheries become more sustainable? Sustainable fishing practices help us to maintain diverse and healthy ocean ecosystems. It also allows us to reduce impacts on threatened, endangered, and protected species. All species play a critical role within ocean ecosystems and work as part of a balanced food web of prey and predators. The loss of a single species can impact the entire food web. 

It is not only fish stocks that benefit from a healthy ecosystem; it also helps the ocean to regulate the climate. The carbon dioxide from the air dissolves into seawater and is trapped with various elements of the ocean ecosystem, including mollusc shells, plant-like plankton, and seagrass. The climate crisis is already having a significant impact on the health of fish stocks and our oceans, which means sustainable fisheries are more vital than ever before. 

If fishing practices are not sustainable, marine environments can be at risk of issues like habitat destruction, unwanted catches, and lost fishing gear. Sustainable fisheries must have measures in place to reduce bycatch. This could entail avoiding fishing in areas where endangered or unwanted species are known to migrate through or live, modifying gear, and altering practices to reduce the risk of interactions. Fishing methods that interact with the seabed, like dredging and bottom trawling, should also be well-managed and sustainable.

Key takeaways

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations reports that just 79 percent of seafood is sustainable. The human population continues to grow rapidly and seafood remains essential for combatting food scarcity. Responsible management, farming, and fishing are the best ways to ensure the sustainability of this resource. This is not only vital for our health and nutrition but also for protecting precious ocean ecosystems, which we greatly depend on. 

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