Tuna may be the signature fish of Japan, the world’s foremost consumer of fish, but last week Japan’s largest organization of tuna fishermen agreed to suspend business because of sharply declining stocks of the fish.
It was just one of many stories in recent weeks about how overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction and climate change are having serious effects on the world’s oceans.
On the Atlantic coast of the United States, the Washington Times reported on the declining catch of blue crab, quoting crab fisherman Bob Rice as saying: “It’s been steadily going downhill every since the oyster fishery crashed and more and more watermen turned to crabbing.”
Rice told the paper he blamed not just overfishing, but pollution, runoff and other human impacts.
In Australia, the World Wildlife Foundation has warned that some of the Great Barrier Reef’s shark species are nearing endangered status because of overfishing, as well as government shark-abatement efforts.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Web site quoted a WWF spokesman as suggesting that tourism industries stage tiger shark-watching tours, modeled on whale-watching tours, in an effort to raise awareness about the problem.
The ocean’s health can be measured through the vitality of less glamorous species as well.
The New York Times on Sunday reported on the problems and how the loss of predator species such as tuna and shark has created an explosion in the population of jellyfish.
And Bloomberg News last month reported that a recent study found that nearly a third of the planet’s reef-building coral species are in danger of extinction.
Bloomberg quoted one of the authors of the report, marine biologist Suzanne Livinstone of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., as saying: “When we began this process, we didn’t think it would be anywhere near as high as that … Climate change is the overarching threat which comes in on a much larger, global scale,” adding to localized disturbances, she said.
“If corals cannot adapt, the cascading effects … will threaten the geologic structure of reefs and their coastal protection function, and have huge economic effects on food security for hundreds of millions of people dependent on reef fish,” the report found.
“Tuna fishing suspended in Japan”
BBC.org, Aug. 1, 2008
“WWF flags shark watching expeditions to protect species”
Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Aug. 2, 2008
“Reef Corals Face Extinction Due to Global Warming, Over-Fishing”
Bloomberg, July 10, 2008
“Confusing picture for crabs”
Washington Times, August 3, 2008
“Stinging Tentacles Offer Hint of Oceans’ Decline”
New York Times, Aug. 3, 2008