Overfishing in Asia goes on unabated

Keith Sanchez

Fishing is one of the oldest ways of gathering food. It also serves as a hobby that people use to bond and can also be very therapeutic. Sometimes people will keep what they catch and mount it on the wall. Others will cook and eat it, or they will sell it to a local market. There are those who depend on fishing for their livelihood. The fishing season will determine how much money they can make and how financially stable they can be through the “dry season”. However, there are those who are  taking fishing to a new level and disregard the rules and regulations for fishing, so they can make extra money. They do not realize the damage that they are doing. Unfortunately, the high demand for fish especially in Asia calls for high concerns of overfishing.

Overfishing is defined as catching too many fish at once and not allowing the fish to breed and repopulate. Overfishing can eventually lead to the endangerment and possible extinction of many species and the other organisms who depend on them for survival. An article by Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative , claims that “only 13 percent of the planet’s oceans are untouched human activity.”

According to an article “Asia is the world’s largest producer of both farmed fish and captured fish- accounting for 91 percent and 48 percent of total world production respectively.” Asia is well known for its dishes, especially with ones that involve fish. However, they overfish and just toss the extra fishes aside, essentially wasting them. They also catch trash fish, which is a fish that is smaller than what the rules and regulation allow. They are supposed to be released back so that they have the chance to grow and repopulate.  The article also states, “Recent studies estimate that the amount of trash fish being landed now exceeds 60 percent of the total marine production from the South China Sea, about 60 percent of the catch from the Gulf of Thailand, 30 percent to 80 percent in Vietnam, an about 50 percent in trawl catches from western Malaysia.”

This overfishing can cause big issues to the ecosystem. Overfishing and wasting fish not only hurts the species of fish, but the other organisms that depend on it for their survival. If the predators who depend on the fish as a part of their diet cannot consume them they will either perish or move on to a new source and change things for other predators.

Fishermen sorting through caught shrimp.

            In recent years China has become the largest seafood exporter in the world. But not without a catch. The demand for fish keeps getting bigger and bigger every year and to meet that need China overfishes and keeps the trash fish.  Greenpeace wrote a piece stating that

Chart displaying the value of fish in Japan from the 1950s to 2000s.

, “China has exceeded its annual catch allowance every year since 1994… In 2014, it is estimated that a total of 7.2 tons of domestically caught trash fish were turned into feed for farm fish, with a further 5.1 million tons of feed sourced from the outside country.” These fish will never have the opportunity to breed and has as result will take a toll on a part of China’s economy.

            Some fishermen use some unethical techniques to capture the fish. The Asia Foundation states “Common methods of destructive fishing include poison fishing, which has become a pervasive commercial fishing method for live reef fish, using sodium cyanide to stun fish and make them easier to capture. Another method is blast fishing, which uses dynamite or grenades to indiscriminately kill fish in the immediate vicinity by rupturing their internal organs.” These methods are illegal, but they are still practiced in most countries.

In Southeast Asia, fisheries are people’s main source of food and income. They serve millions of people and generate huge amounts of money for the region. But, while these methods are “successful” they not only cause damage to the fish but the other wildlife in the area. The article also states, “Bottom trawling is another destructive practice that uses “rock hopper” trawl nets that are dragged over any surface, causing extensive reef destruction. Ghost fishing is the term given to abandoned fishing gear which continues to float in the ocean, killing fish, dolphins, whales, turtles, and other creatures that become hooked or ensnared.” At the rate they are going, between the unethical methods of overfishing and polluting and destroying the aqua life, fisheries in Southeast Asia will be out of business.

            Overfishing is causing huge amounts of damage to not only our waters but on the economy as well. An article by the news lens states “there is an expanding dead zone spanning an estimated 60,000 square kilometers in the middle of the bay.” There is about $13 billion U.S. dollars worth of damage in South Asia. A problem that is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Either the quality of the fish will decrease or the fisheries and the businesses associated with it will go out of business.

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