The state of our oceans
From our signature snoek on the braai to Easter servings of pickled fish and the all-popular prawns and crayfish, seafood is a favourite among most South Africans. Alas, unsustainable fishing and fish farming practices are straining our ocean’s resources.
There has been a dramatic increase in the amount of seafood taken out of the sea in recent decades, and globally many fish stocks are already fully fished or beyond. In South Africa, many linefish species – the most accessible of our inshore fish stocks – are overexploited or collapsed.
Some marine habitats are permanently damaged from fishing practices, such as commercial trawling over a coral reef. Destroying these bottom habitats not only reduces the number of shelters for fish but disrupts the entire ecosystem.
Furthermore, often significant amounts of bycatch (accidental capture of non-target species) are thrown back.
To provide breeding grounds for fish and refuge for endangered species such as turtles, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are declared. These MPAs restrict fishing practices or exist as ‘no-take zones’ to allow depleted fish populations to recover. Yet, very little of our oceans are formally declared as MPAs and the vast majority are still open to fishing.
The reality is that overfishing, and its associated environmental impacts, is one of the biggest global environmental challenges alongside climate change that our generation has to tackle. Increasing pressure on over-exploited resources – from growing populations living at the coast to illegal harvesting activities – remains a big challenge to managing our fisheries sustainably.
So what can you do about it? Well, quite a lot actually. Why not start here?