This is a massive loss of protein. Canada experienced a fisheries collapse first-hand. The fishing grounds of the Grand Banks shallows off the east coast of Newfoundland were among the most productive in the world. In the 1950s, annual catches of more than 275 000 tonnes of northern cod were common. By 1978, totals had dropped to 126 000 tonnes; by 1990, it was clear to marine scientists that the fishery was about to collapse. All cod fishing was banned in 1992 and 40 000 workers were out of a job. Scientists confirmed that only an estimated 1700 tonnes of cod were left by 1994. It was a cruel lesson for the world, which was repeated in the once fish-rich shallow North Sea between the United Kingdom and western Europe. The annual catch collapsed from 275 000 tonnes in the 1980s to 45 000 tonnes in 2000. Why is so much overfishing taking place? Part of the reason is the increased efficiency of the fishing fleets themselves. Industrial fishing methods such as sonar fish finders allow boats to identify the exact location of fish. Drag nets are often used in the shallower areas surrounding the continents called continental shelves . These are the breeding grounds for most species. Draggers scoop everything along the bottom of the seas in order to catch valuable species such as shrimp, squid, halibut, flounder, and soles. Some fishing nets are large enough to wrap around 12 jumbo jets so nothing is able to escape. They damage many of the spawning grounds in the process, making it impossible for species to reproduce again in large numbers. An estimated 20 million tonnes of shellfish and non- commercial fish are also caught by mistake and dumped after they die in the quest for more valuable species. Trawlers that once were restricted to shallow inland shores are also fishing at greater distances and in deeper water. Catching fish at a depth
Lesson 6, page 16 Canadian and World Issues CGW4U-A Copyright © 2007 The Ontario Educational Communications Authority. All rights reserved. of 300 metres is not uncommon. There have also been reports of trawlers dragging nets along the edges of the continental shelves at depths of up to 1200 metres. Even small fishers from poorer coastal communities have resorted to using methods such as poison, dynamite, and fine mesh nets to get a bigger harvest. There is also increasing demand for fish produce. According to a WRI report, Fishing for Answers , demand for seafood products has doubled over the past 30 years. It also predicts a 1.5 percent annual growth until 2020. The report suggests that the growth in demand and the amount of fish caught is unsustainable. Overfishing The issue of overfishing is identified as one of the ten stories the world should hear more about—a UN effort to shine a spotlight on some important international issues and developments that often do not get sufficient media attention.
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