Fishing is fun and relaxing, but we need to remember that it greatly affects our marine ecosystems. Responsible fishing includes educating yourself about what species of fish are dwindling in numbers and acknowledging that overfishing is a very real thing with very real consequences. In fact, we as a society hit a “high-water mark” all the way back in 1989 when 90 million metric tons of aquatic life were removed from our waters. Here are nine different species that you might not have known were endangered or close to becoming endangered so that you can do your part and fish responsibly.
- Atlantic cod
- Bluefin tuna
- Pacific salmon
- Orange roughy
- Sharks (various types)
- Chilean seabass
- Atlantic sturgeon
- Atlantic halibut
Many people are actually aware that cod are running into trouble–particularly the Atlantic variety. Cod is currently labeled as vulnerable by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). There are Pacific cod, Greenland cod, and Atlantic cod. People love fishing cod for its commercial aspects. It is low in fat and doesn’t taste too “fishy”. Therefore, the main reason for its lower numbers is overfishing. It was so bad at one point that a survey of Atlantic cod caught in 2011 did not produce a single cod under thirteen-years-old. Avoid fishing Atlantic cod. Even if it’s off of the endangered species list, we still need to increase the numbers. Also, if you must fish or eat cod, go with Pacific cod.
Tuna salad sandwiches and tuna rolls are quite popular in many areas of the world. This puts the bluefin tuna in a position to be overfished. Shockingly, many experts have said that the Pacific bluefin population is less than 3% than anticipated after the fishing season. Many of the fish are being caught before having the opportunity to have little Bluefin tuna babies. While not technically on the endangered species list, many are pushing for it because of the quick and drastic population numbers
There are five different types of Pacific salmon:
The different sub-species of the Pacific salmon range from “endangered” status to “threatened” status depending on the sub-species and location. However, generally speaking, the chinook is considered to have the lowest numbers. Salmon thrive in cold water. In fact, they tend to die once the water gets to be 72 F (20 C). This makes this species especially vulnerable to the effects of global warming. This makes their migration especially important. When human interference to the environment occurs, this makes the migration more difficult.
Orange roughy became a popular option for a tasty meal in the 80s, and this popularity can be seen in its dwindling population. While many fish can get through the fishing season relatively unscathed, the Orange Roughy is not one of those fish. The Orange Roughy does not become sexually mature until about twenty or thirty years old because of how long its lifespan is (sometimes 49 years). This means that many of the fish can’t reproduce before being served for dinner. The trawl net used to catch them also presents a problem because the fishing method is a main culprit for catching a lot of bycatch–marine life not meant to be caught.
Commercial fishing kills over 100 million sharks every year. The majority of these sharks are killed in the pursuit of fishing other fish in nets or other fishing methods that can swoop up unwanted animals, but sometimes they are even hunted purposefully. There are over twenty species of sharks that are listed as threatened, endangered, and critically endangered. Critically endangered shark species include :
- Pondicherry shark
- Ganges shark
- New Guinea river shark
- Irrawaddy river shark
- Natal shyshark
- Daggernose shark
- Striped-smooth hound shark
- Angel shark
Being a direct cause of fishing, the best way to combat this problem is to create stricter fishing laws around the world, including harsher penalties who blatantly disregard the dire situation of these sharks.
One of the biggest problems with the Chilean seabass is that many of the fish are caught illegally. People try to avoid the regulations, and this causes problems in the species’ population numbers. In 2000, 16,000 tons of Chilean seabass was documented caught in the Antarctic, but it’s estimated that double that amount was actually caught. The fish is not considered endangered yet, though. It is strictly regulated, though, for good reason.
Sturgeons don’t look appetizing when you look at them, but they are great as a source of caviar and their fish oil. That still makes them particularly valuable for commercial fisherman. At one point, the Atlantic sturgeon fishing reached 3,700 tons a year. It’s gotten so bad that only two rivers are believed to have pawning Atlantic sturgeons. 85% of Sturgeon species are endangered, and this is a shame as they are an ancient species that lived with the dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. Luckily, due to conservation efforts, numbers are on the rise.
Like many of these endangered species, you are not even allowed to fish for halibut in American water at this point in an effort to increase the population. If caught as a bycatch, a fisherman may keep it. Overfishing is the main cause of the problem, as it is a tasty fish to many people. They also don’t reproduce too often, adding to their troubles. The future looks grim. Numbers are still expected to decline. The best solution involves setting up ways to limit the Atlantic halibut caught as bycatch.
Monkfish may not be your first thought when you think of fish that people eat. However, they are popular enough to be greatly affected. This is another case of a fish having a long lifespan and not reproducing until later in life (at about 10). Getting caught before they can lay eggs doesn’t allow for more fish the next fishing season. Females are particularly in need.
Fishing is great, and eating fish is even better. Knowing which fish are plentiful and good to fish and eat is the best.