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Nemo No More?

Maarten Voorst, an amateur fisherman as he likes to call himself, has not come back home with a full fishing net in years. Fishing is a monthly family activity for him since his youngest age. Living in Friesland, the Netherlands all his life, he knows the sea off by heart and has learnt to understand fish behaviour. “It’s a family tradition” he explains, every month Maarten and his family take ‘Fortuna’, their six metres long green fishing boat out. He received this boat from his father, who himself received it from his father, “this boat represents a lot for us, fishing has a sentimental value in our family” he explains. And as Maarten said, it is indeed more of a hobby than anything else as he made clear: “we do not do it for the money, we only catch a few fish that we later consume ourselves, and if it’s a big catch, we share it with our neighbours.” However, he reports not having caught “a big one” in years. “Two, three shrimps and a sailors shoe is the only thing we caught last month” he explains with a joking smile. But behind this smile hides a serious problem, overfishing.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 5% of the world’s known fish species are at risk for extinction. Pollution and habitat loss do play a role in this problem, but this role is minim compared to the part overfishing plays.


“ I think it’s a real shame”


The young daughter, Mathilda, who accompanies her father on every fishing outing knows precisely what is going on. “I think it’s a real shame” she begins, “my parents never buy fish, especially not now, because they say it encourages mass fishing. Those people fish so many fish that there is nothing left for us.” “Those people” as she puts it, the big fishing industries, make profits by catching as many fish as possible and selling them to different merchants. The problem in this process is that, as these fishing corporations do not calculate the exact amount of fish they catch, this often leads to huge quantities of waste. The kilos of fish that are not bought from the fishing corporations are thrown away, and there is nothing there to stop these corporations from doing so. The effect this has on the corporations’ revenues is close to insignificant as the marginal cost of one extra fish is close to nothing.

Mathildas’ parents are not the only ones concerned about fish extinction. According to the Guardian, the bluefish tuna is part of the top ten endangered fish nowadays. In 2013, the Northern Pacific Ocean has suffered a decrease in amount of tuna fish of more than 96%. Since then, this trend has also extended to further oceans such as the Atlantic ocean, leading to a equally concerning fact: around 90% of specimens currently fished are young and have therefore not yet reproduced. This has woken up many different organisations, such as Green Peace, who now take action against overfishing. Green Peace has launched a campaign in order to cut down the amount of boats on the water fishing for tuna. Additionally, Green Peace has also fought for the implementation of ocean sanctuaries. “These sanctuaries will permit the protection of the tuna populations that are left, and give them time to recover” explains a Green Peace employee who worked on promoting this campaign.

The problem this trend brings is obviously issues of biodiversity, such as any other animal close to the point of extinction. However, in the case of fish, as it is a widely consumed product their extinction would affect us directly. We soon may not be able to find our favourite fish in the supermarket or restaurants. Some countries such as the USA have already banned consumption of particular fish, such as beluga caviar. This ban started in 2005 when experts revealed that the stock of beluga sturgeon have declined as much as 30% in one year, and above 90% in the last twenty years. This may soon become the case for other fish species such as tuna or bocaccio rockfish.

 


Here are the five most endangered fish you should consider twice before buying:

  1. Bluefin Tuna                              2. Maltese Ray

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 22.13.44                 Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 22.14.00

  1. Goliath Grouper                        4. European Eel

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 22.14.14              Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 22.14.28

 

  1. Bocaccio Rockfish

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 22.14.44

 


With fish becoming scarcer and scarcer every day, the price of the latter will soon rocket up as tuna will become a hot commodity. Tuna, being an essential ingredient in dishes from many cultures can sell for millions of dollars for just one fish. But this is not the only way in which this problem affects us, according to the Dairy Council of California, fish consumption is essential for good health. Doctors and health experts encourage eating fish at least twice a week. Nutritionists have always incited fish consumption such as tuna or salmon because they contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, they are a great source of protein and are packed with vitamins B.

“There are plenty of fish in the sea” cliché sentence is no longer true and, what will happen when our favourite Nemo and Dory will be gone and extinct?

 

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