Most of us enjoy seafood and some cultures depend on it. How can this be bad for all of us?

Everything in nature has a delicate balance and depend on each other. If you remove one thing, it will have a trickle down effect to others. Think of this balance as a recipe. If you were making a cake and left out the eggs, it would not turn out right. Everything in one ecosystem does have a special niche.

Fish are the same way but on a greater scale. Fish, or lack of, can even raise the temperatures in oceans. This is not good because water holds in heat very well. This is a contributing factor to the speed at which temperatures increase on our planet. One example of this heating process was discovered by two scientists off the coast of Africa around 2005. They stumbled upon the fishing problem when the original inquiry was why they were not seeing any mammals in the grasslands of Africa….no lions, no elephants, no warthogs, no wild dogs. They discovered it was because the locals needed to find another food source. The fish population had dramatically decreased, so they had to turn to “bushmeat” for their protein source. All the above listed mammals, in addition to others such as fruit bats, were being slaughtered and sold at roadside markets. This is when the scientists went to the ocean for answers. There were “dead zones” where thousands of fish were dead. They also noticed a foul odor in these areas. It was toxic gases like sulfur that they were smelling. Why these dead zones? So many sardines had been overfished that their food source, phytoplankton (microscopic plant-like organisms), had boomed in numbers. There was not enough fish to keep this in balance so the phytoplankton died and lay on the ocean floor. Their decomposition omits a toxic gas called methane. The methane was killing even more fish. In fact, the methane helped contribute to some small explosions that released even more toxic gases. These explosions expanded to a 1000 mile radius along the coastline and is documented through satellite photography. Why else is methane so bad for our entire earth? Methane is 60 times more effective than carbon dioxide in trapping heat! Dare I use the controversial term, “global warming”? Too much methane will alter the entire marine ecosystem to the point of irreversibility. This is only one incident!

Did you know that 80% of our earth are oceans? Despite constant gain of knowledge of oceans, they contribute a great deal to our overall health and well-being. Around 50% of all the Earth’s species live in the ocean. What an amazing example of biodiversity.

So…back to fishing. I wish I could remember the exact numbers here, but I’ll just get real close….around 2008, it was said that if we continue to fish as we are right now, by the year 2040, we will have depleted almost all fish in the ocean! Scientists estimate that we have removed as much as 90 percent of the large predatory fish such as shark, swordfish and cod from the world’s oceans. We just fish and don’t low time for reproduction. Thankfully, decision makers saw that this was indeed a reality and have placed she restrictions on commercial fishing. Limits are set on the amount of fish companies can take, the use of technology and monitoring have been implemented so fisherman do not catch (and kill) unwanted fish in their nets such as dolphins and crustaceans, and important habitats are being protected. These habitats include coral reefs, spawning and nursing grounds of fish, the delicate sea floor, and unique unexplored habitats. Aquaculture, or fish-farming, is also a growing industry. In 2005, we consumed 95 million tons of fish from fisheries: 86% from marine fisheries and 9% from inland fisheries. Another 50 million tons came from fish farms. In 1980, less than 10% of our fish came from fisheries!

All these things are a great start, but in order to restore and maintain balance, we, too, need to make some good decisions. Some companies follow guidelines better than others. Certain types of fish still need time to replenish. How can you know what to do? Most importantly, be informed. Secondly, spread the word. Lastly, know what you eat. You might be surprised that what is good for the ocean is also better for your health. Click here for a great color-coded list of good fish versus bad fish.