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Overfishing: A Threat To Ecosystems Essay

1998 words - 8 pages

In 2013, a single 489-pound bluefin tuna sold for $1.76 million at the Tsukiji fish market in Japan. It was the first bluefin sold of the year and beat the previous record by nearly $1 million making it the most expensive fish ever sold (WWF). This specific fish makes for some delicious sushi and sashimi, with the average cost per fish being up to $100,000 (Animal Planet). Fishermen are driven by such high prices and use any means possible to catch the bluefin tuna, along with other highly profitable fish. Unfortunately, these fishermen are failing to recognize - or simply not caring about - the serious problems that will, and have already begun to, result from overfishing. Overfishing occurs when more fish are caught than the population can replace through natural reproduction (Rosenberg 303). While catching as many fish as possible may be profitable for the time being, the results not only negatively affect the balance of life in the oceans, but also the social and economic well-being of the coastal communities who rely completely on fish for either money, food, or both. Overfishing brings many marine species closer to the brink of extinction than any other type of human disturbance to coastal ecosystems, including pollution, degradation of water quality, and climate change (Jackson 629). It is vital to the survival of our marine ecosystems, our global economy, and the well-being of man-kind that new and improved international agreements and regulations are implemented and enforced.
A study that was conducted by Daniel Pauly and Johanne Dalsgaard of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and colleagues at the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management in the Philippines found that humans are fishing down the marine ecosystem food webs faster than ever (Williams 809). The larger, more commercially profitable species are being overfished to the brink of extinction leaving just the smaller, less valuable species. Fisheries experts who examined the results of Pauly and Dalsgaard’s study say that many more protected areas are necessary if there is going to be any hope in restoring the rapidly vanishing marine ecosystems (Williams 809).
An example of how just one marine species plays such an important role in the functioning of a marine ecosystem can be seen in the overfishing of the spiny lobster Jasus edwardsii. This lobster particularly preys on sea urchins (Cain ch 8.1). However, these lobsters have been overfished and their species is heading toward extinction fast. With fewer and fewer of these lobsters, naturally there is an increasing amount of sea urchins. While this may seem great for the urchins, it is far from great for the marine ecosystem. These sea urchins graze on kelp and with the growing abundance of urchins, kelp beds eventually turn into urchin barrens. These barrens support far fewer species than kelp beds do, making it much harder for the ecosystem to thrive (Ling 22341). New laws need to be...

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