People have fished for thousands of years. Yet, unless big changes are made, they may not fish much longer. Many kinds of fish are in danger of disappearing.
New ways of fishing are shrinking fish populations. Fishers take billions of pounds of fish from the sea each year. Scientists say many kinds of fish will soon be wiped out. Once they are gone, they will never come back.
There is a way to stop this from happening. Fishers need to start using sustainable fishing practices.
Sustainable fishing is a way of fishing responsibly. It kills fewer fish. It also gives fish populations a chance to grow back.
The world's fish are in serious danger. Look at the bluefin tuna, for example. Many people like how it tastes. Because of that, it has been very heavily fished. Today, there are many fewer bluefin tuna than there were in 1970.
Fishers catch bluefin tuna in two harmful ways. One is purse seining. The other is longlining.
Purse seine fishing uses a large net. First, the net is used to herd fish together. Then, it closes around them. The net scoops up many fish at a time.
Longlining uses a very long fishing line that is dragged by a boat. The lines can be up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) long. They have thousands of hooks. Bits of food on the hooks attract fish.
Purse seining and longlining catch thousands of fish at a time. They also catch many fish that fishers were not trying to catch. Such fish are called bycatch. Birds and sea turtles can also be trapped by accident.
Sustainable Fishing Practices
It is possible to fish sustainably. In some parts of the world, people have been doing it for thousands of years. Today, we can learn much from these old ways of fishing.
The Tagbanua people of the Philippines are one example. They have been fishing sustainably for many years. The Tagbanuas fish for particular kinds of fish only during certain times of the year. The rest of the year, the fish are left alone. That gives their population time to grow larger again.
The Tagbanuas also set aside certain areas as protected spots. Fishing is never allowed in these areas. When they do fish, the Tagbanuas catch only a small number of fish. They only take what they need to feed themselves and their communities. They mostly use hook-and-line fishing.
If you have ever fished, you probably used a rod and reel. Rod-and-reel fishing is a newer form of hook-and-line fishing. It is much more sustainable than longlining. Only one fish is caught at a time, instead of thousands. There is also much less bycatch. If you hook something you weren't planning to catch, you can put it back in the water right away.
Another way we can all help is by no longer eating fish. Ocean scientist Sylvia Earle has stopped eating fish. She believes we need to take a break from eating seafood. Fish populations need a chance to grow larger again, she says.
"I personally have stopped eating seafood," Earle says. "I know too much. I know that every fish counts." Fish are very important to the health of our oceans, Earle says. In turn, the oceans "make the planet work."
Of course, many of us want to keep eating fish. If we do, we should choose seafood that was fished sustainably. Fish and our ocean are just too important not to care.