Marine Life / Science

Who Says Size Doesn’t Matter?

The following are guest posts from undergraduate students in the Marine Ecology class that I am a TA for this semester. See the entire student blog at http://marineecologyblog.web.unc.edu/

By Tyler Hodges, Abigail Brewer, and Cathy Wood

People have always said, “There are other fish in the sea.” What they don’t tell you is that those fish have been become smaller in recent years. Take Hong Kong as a cautionary tale.

For many years, the country has enjoyed a booming fishing industry, with thousands of fisherman bringing home large catches. Recently, the country has realized the impact of this consumer-driven industry. Hong Kong has “fished down the food chain.” That is, the country has depleted the supply of large, predatory fish, leaving the smaller, previously-unwanted fish species to become the next victims.

Hodges 1In this CNN article, one fisherman speaks the mind of many people. “It’s quite hard to do business now because there is not much supply,” he says.

Older, bigger females are more reproductively successful. They are immensely important to ocean ecosystems, but fishermen around the world are effectively wiping out these fish. People say they “have bigger fish to fry,” but they don’t realize they are running out of those big fish. Larger fish have longer generation times than their smaller counterparts. While smaller species are replaced relatively quickly, bigger ones are not.

Hodges 2It’s important to note that this problem isn’t limited to Hong Kong–it’s a global issue. Hong Kong is dealing with the problem by imposing bans and shifting to aquaculture techniques. We may not have quite the fishing industry as Hong Kong, but much of our population relies on fish as part of their diet. If we want to continue to enjoy deep sea delicacies, we should educate ourselves on sustainable fishing methods. Next time you’re in the supermarket, think and read the labeling before you pick up that flounder. Was it caught using sustainable methods?

We can’t always have our big fish and eat them too.

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