World Fisheries Day was established in 1997 to highlight the importance of fisheries around the world and draw attention to overfishing, habitat destruction and other serious threats to the sustainability of our aquatic resources.
More than 25% of the world’s dietary protein is provided by fish with over 100 million metric tons of fish consumed annually and the industry employing over 43 million people. Annual fishery exports are valued at 85 to 90 billion dollars with Canadian fisheries supplying 1 million metric tons of fish valued in excess of 2 billion dollars.
A recent UN study reported that the majority of the world’s fisheries have collapsed, are being overfished or are in a state of decline from pollution and climate change. Newfoundland’s economy collapsed when the Grand Banks Cod Fishery was closed due to overfishing and poor fishery management in the 1990’s. It has yet to be re-opened.
The loss or closure of fisheries can lead to job losses, business closures and food source elimination, impacting coastal communities the world over. Maintaining these fisheries is of utmost importance, especially with the global population increases. Many governments are now introducing legislation with the aim of putting protections on native fisheries.
Pollution is escalating, threatening water quality and fish habitat. It is thought that all natural fish stock today contain trace amounts of mercury. This is not only a problem affecting the ocean fisheries, but fresh water is also being impacted by pollution and climate change. Changing rainfall patterns are effecting water levels and increasing the impact of any pollutants entering the water shed. Remember, all water eventually ends up in the ocean, so any water quality degradation will be magnified once it collects in the ocean. Water evaporates, pollutants accumulate.
To help alleviate these water issues, water quality needs to be monitored. The Heron Instruments Conductivity Plus is an excellent tool for this purpose. An increase in conductivity in any fresh water is a sign of some pollutant impacting the water quality. This is true in both surface water and aquifers. It can also monitor changes in water levels as any reduction of water magnifies the Impact of any foreign substances which are leaking into the water table.
The loss of viable fish habitats is another troubling issue. Urban sprawl had led to the loss of wetlands and spawning grounds putting pressure on aquatic populations. With the increase in the number of aquaculture facilities, the invasion of alien species has become a bigger problem. Climate change has intensified storms, leading to an increase in flooding events making it possible for non-native species to escape from aquaculture facilities. These non-native species can overrun native populations, drastically changing or even destroying native fisheries.
To ensure a sustainable food supply for a large percentage of the world’s population, maintaining our fisheries is imperative. If we all do our part, disasters like the Grand Banks in Newfoundland can hopefully be prevented in the future.