Will the ocean ever run out of fish?

00:07 Fish are in trouble.


00:09 The cod population off Canada’s East Coast collapsed in the 1990s, intense recreational and commercial fishing

00:16 has decimated goliath grouper populations in South Florida, and most populations of tuna have plummeted by over 50%,

00:24 with the Southern Atlantic bluefin on the verge of extinction.

00:28 Those are just a couple of many examples.

00:30 Overfishing is happening all over the world.

00:33 How did this happen?

00:34 When some people think of fishing, they imagine relaxing in a boat and patiently reeling in the day’s catch.

00:40 But modern industrial fishing, the kind that stocks our grocery shelves, looks more like warfare.

00:46 In fact, the technologies they employ were developed for war.

00:50 Radar, sonar, helicopters, and spotter planes are all used to guide factory ships towards dwindling schools of fish.

00:58 Long lines with hundreds of hooks or huge nets round up massive amounts of fish, along with other species, like seabirds, turtles, and dolphins.

01:07 And fish are hauled up onto giant boats, complete with onboard flash freezing and processing facilities.

01:13 All of these technologies have enabled us to catch fish at greater depths and farther out at sea than ever before.

01:19 And as the distance and depth of fishing have expanded, so has the variety of species we target.

01:25 For example, the Patagonian toothfish neither sounds nor looks very appetizing.

01:30 And fishermen ignored it until the late 1970s.

01:33 Then it was rebranded and marketed to chefs in the U.S. as Chilean sea bass, despite the animal actually being a type of cod.

01:40 Soon it was popping up in markets all over the world and is now a delicacy.

01:45 Unfortunately, these deep water fish don’t reproduce until they’re at least ten years old,

01:50 making them extremely vulnerable to overfishing when the young are caught before they’ve had the chance to spawn.

01:56 Consumer taste and prices can also have harmful effects.

01:59 For example, shark fin soup is considered such a delicacy in China and Vietnam that the fin has become the most profitable part of the shark.

02:07 This leads many fishermen to fill their boats with fins leaving millions of dead sharks behind.

02:13 The problems aren’t unique to toothfish and sharks.

02:16 Almost 31% of the world’s fish populations are overfished, and another 58% are fished at the maximum sustainable level.

02:24 Wild fish simply can’t reproduce as fast as 7 billion people can eat them.

02:29 Fishing also has impacts on broader ecosystems.

02:32 Wild shrimp are typically caught by dragging nets the size of a football field along the ocean bottom, disrupting or destroying seafloor habitats.

02:40 The catch is often as little as 5% shrimp.

02:43 The rest is by-catch, unwanted animals that are thrown back dead.

02:47 And coastal shrimp farming isn’t much better.

02:50 Mangroves are bulldozed to make room for shrimp farms,

02:53 robbing coastal communities of storm protection and natural water filtration and depriving fish of key nursery habitats.

03:00 So what does it look like to give fish a break and let them recover?

03:04 Protection can take many forms.

03:05 In national waters, governments can set limits about how, when, where, and how much fishing occurs, with restrictions on certain boats and equipment.

03:15 Harmful practices, such as bottom trawling, can be banned altogether, and we can establish marine reserves closed to all fishing to help ecosystems restore themselves.

03:26 There’s also a role for consumer awareness and boycotts to reduce wasteful practices, like shark finning, and push fishing industries towards more sustainable practices.

03:35 Past interventions have successfully helped depleted fish populations recover.

03:39 There are many solutions.

03:41 The best approach for each fishery must be considered based on science,

03:45 respect for the local communities that rely on the ocean, and for fish as wild animals.

03:50 And then the rules must be enforced.

03:52 International collaboration is often needed, too, because fish don’t care about our borders.

03:58 We need to end overfishing.

04:00 Ecosystems, food security, jobs, economies, and coastal cultures all depend on it.

Will the ocean ever run out of fish?

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