Today’s enormous demand for fish and seafood cannot possibly be met by today’s supply without irrevocable damage to our fish stocks.
As the United States and many other nations have become health-conscious, people are consuming tremendous quantities of fish. So prices go up. Commercial fishermen invest in deadly, ultra-sophisticated equipment. Miles and miles of nets and longlines dredge our oceans. Because we are harvesting in some areas four times as many fish as four years ago, we continue to lose fishing grounds at an alarming rate.
Several years ago, it was estimated that there were enough commercial nets and longlines in the Pacific to circle the earth at its equator! This has not only decimated Pacific fishing for marlin, sails and other pelagic species, but it has also significantly depleted anadromous fish stocks such as steelhead and salmon. You can only imagine the damage these nets and longliners can do in one day or month, let alone over the course of a few years!
The Atlantic Ocean is in similar straits. Over- harvesting by commercial interests has almost knocked the Atlantic salmon out of the ocean and onto the endangered species list. Where once they were plentiful, bluefin tuna have virtually disappeared from many waters and this spectacular species is becoming very scarce.
As I am writing this, a panel of scientists has recommended that only 14 days of commercial fishing be allowed in New England next year instead of 88 because these areas have been overfished.
More bad news. Population Action International says that the shortage of fish will get worse, “because there are 90 million more people each year!”
With the accelerating rate of population growth, the continuous shrinking of available fishing grounds, and our health-conscious society demanding more fish, we are faced with a crucial problem. Where is this supply going to come from when right now there is a shortage?
But the problem is not confined to oceans. Locals and immigrants have netted many bonefish flats in Latin America, and you can find bonefish and sometimes permit, snook and tarpon on sale in local fish markets. We all know that strategically placed monofilament nets can destroy great flats in a few days!
Remember when giant snook fishing was so productive along the east coast of Costa Rica that snook of 25 to 30 pounds earned only a polite, “Nice fish”comment? Heavy netting, especially at or near the river mouths, took care of that. Thankfully, the issue of netting on the east coast is being addressed and the bigger snook are starting to come back.