In 1900, the ocean was teeming with life, with entire food chains chasing each other through the shallows. Tuna were some of the largest schooling predatory fish, and sharks patrolled both the shallows and the deep, an apex predator in its element. Fast forward a little over a hundred years, and in 2009, the oceans contained less than one-sixth of the fish as compared to 1900. In fact, reports say it was 17 times harder to catch the same amount of fish in 2009 as it was a hundred years prior.

That is the unfortunate reality of the fishing industry, and overfishing, today.

Think about this:

In 1992, there was a collapse in cod numbers in Newfoundland, Canada. The loss of one species, on one island, in one country, caused the loss of 40,000 jobs. Needless to say, fish numbers are ever-so-important to the survival of our species, among others, as almost one billion people currently consume fish as their main source of protein.

Why is this happening?

Well, overfishing is a huge reason. Fishermen are taking out of the ocean faster than it can replenish itself

Well, overfishing is a huge reason. Fishermen are taking out of the ocean faster than it can replenish itself, and undersized/unwanted fish (bycatch) that are caught by these giant nets are either being landed without documentation and illegally sold, or thrown back in the ocean dead. 90% of all predatory fish stocks are already gone, contributing to the 63% of all fish stock that are considered overfished. This includes not only the cod, but the tuna that are a staple on many plates, including that of the Philippines. In fact, out of the five species of tuna, only the Skipjack are still relatively numerous, with the ever-popular Bluefin now endangered.

Destructive fishing has also played a big part in wrecking the ocean’s livestock; not only are they problematic toward reefs (that hold 25% of all marine species), they also wipe out entire generations of multiple species. These include, but are not exclusive to:

  • Trawling (scraping the bottom of the seafloor, scooping up everything in a big net, including sharks and dolphins).
  • Cyanide fishing. Despite being illegal, cyanide fishing is still being used to collect reef fish for aquariums (Sodium Cyanide stuns the target fish, affects the others and the surrounding corals).
  • Explosive fishing. This method instantly kills the fish in the reef, and drives others out into a net, while breaking down huge chunks of coral.

The marine fish in many aquariums across South-East Asia, unfortunately, are caught by cyanide fishing, hence devastating the other species and the reefs themselves. Today, many of the small, colourful reef fish you see for sale in your local wet market are still being caught by throwing explosives into their reefs, killing the entire ecosystem.

All these destructive forms of fishing are ruining coral reefs the world over, and are giving many species a lack of a breeding ground, or even shelter.

Image: WILDLIFE GMBH/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Manmade global warming is also a problem. The ocean may be supremely vast, but is extremely sensitive to changes in temperature and pH, and with the earth heating up, coral reefs are dying in the shallows, and the creatures of the deep are beginning to act up as they are exposed to conditions they aren’t used to. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

Out of all the industries in the world today, the fishing industry may be the most detrimental to its own wellbeing.

All this is still ignoring the evil that constantly happens on many of these fishing fleets, from indiscriminant long lines and illegal unchecked shark finning, to the horrifying treatment of fishermen on these large commercial ships. Out of all the industries in the world today, the fishing industry may be the most detrimental to its own wellbeing.

The ocean used to be filled with life; flying fish skimming the water’s surface, sailfish hunting shoals of baitfish, and the occasional whale shark making an appearance, just basking. These days, however, as fish stocks continue to deplete, man is going deeper, further, and more destructive than ever before, to fish out the remaining profit the ocean has to offer.

As things stand, 2048 is the universally accepted deadline for all fish stock. Hopefully some change will be made, as it will be too late to listen when the ocean finally falls silent.