Research Paper on the Environmental Impact of Fishing Industry
When you dine in a fancy restaurant and order grilled lobster, baked scallops and caviar with your sparkling white wine you would seldom wonder how your favorite seafood would end up on your plate. From the sea to the market, it has been the fishing industry which has provided the consumers with the products of the seas and fresh bodies of water.
Fishing started during the ancient times. The seas, great lakes and rivers have always been a source of food for man. Fishing became a means of feeding the family and a form of livelihood. Catching more than their fill, the fishermen began to sell and trade from which the fishing industry had taken its roots. The fishing industry includes any industry or activity concerned with taking, culturing, processing, preserving, storing, transporting, marketing or selling fish or fish products and is not only limited to fish but other aquatic animals as well, such as molluscs, cephalopods, crustaceans, and echinoderms (“Fishing”).
In the past, men fished traditionally with the use of fish nets or fish traps. But now, man has learned more advanced techniques and methods making fishing more efficient, catching a greater number of fish with lesser labor. However, in developing countries, traditional fishing methods are still being practiced among fishermen who do small-scale fishing only. With the increasing human population, the demand for fish, fish products and other aquatic products has also increased. Such demand is what keeps the industry of fishing alive wherein they fill in the supply. To keep up with the demand, companies and other fishing groups have used more advanced techniques to increase their catch and it has a significant impact on the environment. Issues such as overfishing, use of harmful chemicals (e.g. cyanide fishing), marine species becoming endangered especially large marine mammals, smuggling, destruction of coral reefs through dynamite fishing and bottom trawling have surfaced.
According to the food and agriculture organization of the United Nations in the article Impacts of fishery activities, fishing can modify ecosystems, possibly altering or affecting the following components: the target source/species, the species associated with or dependent on the targeted resource, trophic relationships within the ecosystem in which the fishery operates; and habitats in which fishing occurs. Uncontrolled or overfishing of a target species may possibly endanger its population. When target species’ breeders are caught and not even the chance to spawn, how will they be able to produce the next generation of their kind to catch? With the drastic decrease in number of target species, their natural prey and predators may also be affected. The prey’s population will zoom up since the species that controls their number are no longer able to do so and the natural predators will have to look for other species to consume (thereby causing a change in trophic relationships) and if they are highly dependent on the target species as their major source of food then their numbers will decrease in number. Moreover, since fishing is not only about catching fish but processing as well, fish effluent and waste may contribute in the pollution of our waters.
Fishing will always be part and parcel of the world’s leading industries as long as man will continue to demand and consume aquatic products. It will do us no harm as long as the right balance is maintained. The fishing industry should always have in mind the concept of responsible fishing and the sustainability of our aquatic resources. If the seas, lakes and rivers are not exploited, nature has its own way of replenishing what was taken.