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Could Ocean Sanctuaries Be The Answer To Overfishing?

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

Written by Grace Williams

Photo by Jean Wimmerlin

Rapid population growth has engendered an urgent global demand for food. Realistically, in order to live sustainably and ensure our future generations have access to the same resources that we do, education on family planning and safe sex across the globe must be implemented to prevent the global population from maxing out the resources of our planet. However, this, worryingly, is already occurring. Currently, we can make efforts to minimise the already scalding damage we have imposed onto Earth by conserving precious resources such as marine life, by managing and regulating fishing practices, and reducing our consumption of seafood. - Writer Farihah Choudhury

Legislation to declare certain parts of our waters as ocean sanctuaries could protect fish populations from being over-exploited, which would disrupt the food chain and marine biodiversity. The function of our oceans is crucial to sustain life on Earth now more than ever, as it acts as a ‘sink’ for excess heat and CO2 produced by modern malpractice and over-consumption of natural resources. 

‘High seas’ are defined as the parts of the open ocean far from coastlines and economic areas. These areas are being devastated by poor, exploitative practices. These practices include deep-sea mining to generate energy, and activities such as whale hunting. Whaling has been widely denounced, however whale-hunting countries Norway, Iceland, and Japan still uphold the practice with some quota.

Whales, some of the largest animals to have ever existed, take a tremendous amount of effort to harpoon and kill, and are a crucial element of marine eco-systems. Deep-sea mining presents a conundrum in terms of energy generation, as, to generate energy from the land it requires destruction of habitable and arable land areas, leaving a large impact on land-dwelling organisms (which includes us). On the other hand, a relatively smaller area of the ocean floor is required for energy generation, but at the cost of marine habitats. Furthermore, over-fishing has affected staple fish populations such as the bluefin tuna, of which only 2% remains in the oceans. In the Black Sea, bluefin tuna all but disappeared in the 1980s, and the population has yet to recover.

A United Nations treaty to legally protect high seas internationally could be implemented in the near future, though this suggestion is being met with disagreement by many countries, including whale-hunting countries, as well as the U.S.A. As it stands, most protective legislation is within smaller regions or own countries, however there is currently no over-arching law to protect the oceanic body as a whole, agreed upon by all member states of the UN. If this legislation is successfully passed, it would protect and retain marine diversity and conserve the important functions of our oceans.

Until suitable bills are passed however, our ocean is at risk of being taken advantage, and we can help by promoting and supporting sustainable fishing practices, and minimising eating fish. After all, if we humans are the stewards of the Earth, is it not selfish to believe that we are the only organisms entitled to the fruits of the ocean? The ownership of the ocean lies with not just the humans that extract food, water, and jewels from it, but arguably more-so to the wonderful creatures that inhabit it.

Surely, it is not right that as a result of our human actions, harmful chemicals, radioactive waste and oil is deposited in the waters – destroying marine habitats, and is dismissed as just collateral damage. We must take responsibility and protect and appreciate the oceans, before they too are destroyed at our hands. | Tru. 🌱

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Sources: Information on how to reverse climate change by 2050

Tim P. Barnett, David W. Pierce, Reiner Schnur (2001) Detection of Anthropogenic Climate Change in the World's Oceans; Science, 13 APR 2001 : 270-274 How we max out the natural resources available to us each year (‘Earth Overshoot Day’) BBC article - UN treaty on ocean sanctuaries

Cindy, Lee Van Dover (2011) Tighten regulations on deep-sea mining, Nature, 470, pages 31–33 Tuna decline MacKenzie BR, Mariani P (2012) Spawning of Bluefin Tuna in the Black Sea: Historical Evidence, Environmental Constraints and Population Plasticity. PLOS ONE 7(7)


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