In many places around the world, especially at our home in Southern California, fish is a vital part of everyday life and many peoples’ diets. Fish has long been a healthy source of protein that has constituted the bulk of many coastal diets for centuries; recently, however, there is concern that consumption is outpacing supply in many of the world’s fisheries. People continually look for “sustainable” food sources, and sustainable fishing is no different. How can conservationists and fishermen work together to make sure that fishing is sustainable worldwide?
Fishing is an industry that directly employs or indirectly affects nearly 500 million people worldwide, so it is important that a solution to overfishing continues to support the global aquaculture economy. Researchers and fishermen alike have been working on solutions to balance the demand for fish with the carrying capacity of the ecosystem in their locality. One method involves using special fishing nets that are designed to only catch fully-grown fish, allowing smaller, young fish to swim through and continue to populate the ecosystem. This method turns a fishery into a sustainable source of food by reducing overfishing and bycatch.
If we stop fishing or eating fish altogether, we may feel as though we have conserved the ocean ecosystems, but we will have caused detriment to the aquaculture economy and many peoples’ livelihoods. The consumption of fish and fishing as a practice are not necessarily the issues; it is overconsumption that is attributed to the loss of ecosystems. Learning how to fish responsibly and making people aware of the benefits of sustainable fishing is how we’re going to be able to protect our aquaculture economy in the years to come.