Published on January 9th, 2017 | by Rosslyn Watret


Does fishing destroy our seas?

As a first year marine biology student I gave up eating fish due to not being able to establish which fish were sustainable, and which were not. No huge loss to me as fish was rarely on the menu, but tinned tuna was missed. The rumours from all over the world made me shiver at the thought that I could be destroying the oceans I was trying to protect. From all over the world reports swam in of depleted and collapsing fish stocks with some even claiming that by 2050 there will be no fish left. However are doom and gloom headlines that we see in the papers justified or exacerbated?

Today there are massive conflicts between the fishing industry, fisheries scientists and conservationists but in a world full of inconsistent advice who should we follow? Choosing to not eat fish was in practice a way to help our declining oceans biodiversity and reducing the stress we place. In contrary however we are lucky enough to live in a developed country with fisheries legislation and quotas. What this means is, as current inhabitants of the European Union we have knowledge provided to us as to which fish species we are harvesting sustainably. Furthermore we have evidence that the harvesting of fish actually promote reproduction within the population increasing our harvest and providing into a million pound revenue. This revenue is highly needed within our beloved Scotland especially whilst in the shadow of Brexit. This revenue will go a long way to allowing Scotland to be self-sufficient and it keeps many of our rural communities economically stable should the worst happen.

Where then did my drive to give up on fish appear from four years ago? The problem was at this time there was little way to find out where our fish were coming from and whether or not the fishing practices that provided these fish were sustainable especially within restaurants. Today this has changed due to the pioneering work of the Marine Conservation Society. The society has produced the free Good Fish Guide, a handy little pamphlet that allows you to eat fish worry free. For the more technological savvy this even comes as an app that is updated regularly to keep you extremely well informed with the latest fisheries knowledge. The other objection of mine is there are many practices around the world that are not sustainable. The areas of unsustainable practice are found in many other countries do not adhere to any governing laws or quotas. Many of these fishing practices are detrimental not only to the environment, or the fish stocks but also the human population. These destructive practices come from dynamite, Muroami and cyanide fishing. The first two of these see many human deaths within Asian culture whilst the latter is used to provide western culture with ornamental fish, poisoning hundreds of other fish and the ecosystem simultaneously. Although it is endeavoured to restrict these practices, in underdeveloped, war torn countries it is impossible to end.

However in our fortunate situation we should take advantage of the wealth of knowledge supplied to us on which fish we can sustainably eat. We should venture away from our unsustainably caught tins of tuna and our preferences for the familiar cod and haddock. Broadening our horizons from the few fish species consumed in Scotland into the hundreds of species coming into our docks will also allow us to make sure we are not targeting one species too much. For me it is too late as after four years there is no need for me to revert back. I am all for saving our oceans; it is my biggest priority and for this I ask you to check the label for a MCS sticker of approval, after all, we need to exploit fish stocks to meet the demand of the human population, and for the excellent source of protein. Sustainable fish also offer the added bonus of a lower carbon footprint than other meat products for the eco-friendly among us, as well as being far healthier for the population. Listening to the advice on what fish to capture and consume should then hopefully help us to become a healthier population never mind supporting our local people. Fishing within Scotland is therefore not destroying our oceans and we should continue to protect and harvest our fish stocks so that they can be plentiful for years to come.

Featured image by Joachim Müllerchen (CC BY-SA 2.0 DE) at Wikimedia Commons.

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