Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on July 16, 2008
If you’re a fan of orange roughy, you probably can’t find it in abundance like you could in the mid-1990s. The reason: their stocks have declined by an estimated 99 percent in the last 17 years. The roughy isn’t the only one in danger; other species that have made the list include the roundnose grenadier, blue hake, spiny eel, spinytail skate and onion-eye grenadier. Never heard of them? Me neither, but these fish form an important link in the ocean’s food chain, albeit from the once-sheltered seafloor starting at about 4,000 feet down.
Deep sea trawling, the practice of dragging heavy nets along the bottom of the ocean in search of new fishing stocks, has been likened to fishing with a bulldozer. The giant nets scrape along the bottom, trapping everything there, destroying corals and causing plumes that can be seen from space. Commercial fishermen turned to this practice after our appetite for close-to-shore fish nearly wiped out the most popular species like salmon and cod. The problem is that deep-sea fish take up to 25 years to mature sexually, making them extremely vulnerable to overfishing.
And then there’s the habitat destruction and the plight of bycatch, the unintended species caught up in the nets. The concerns are so severe that many nations have enacted trawling bans, but enforcement is tough because of the vastness of the ocean and the lack of international consensus. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that we still know very little about what goes on way down there, so entire ecosystems could be destroyed before we even knew they existed, ecosystems that the entire ocean depends on for its health.
More at UK’s Independent.