The Future of seafood
A look into modern fishing and the sustainability of the multi-billion industry
Fishing is a worldwide industry supported by a strong demand for all types of fish and seafood. However, the world is advancing in technology, and with this advancement comes the creation of new fishing methods such as hatcheries, aquaculture, and overexploitation. Many believe that these new methods are more effective and better for the economy. On the other hand, there are still some who believe in the usage of old-fashioned fishing. This leads the ever-changing world with a very relevant dispute: which of these methods should be continued and praised, and which should be stopped?
In this essay, I will explore the benefits and disadvantages of several fishing methods in Canada, and compare them. I will extrapolate the future of seafood and find the optimal fishing method for Canada’s future. Finally, I will produce a solution to guarantee that future generations will be able to cherish seafood like we do.
Fishing used to be a leisurely activity with the purpose of survival, but following the Second World War and the baby boom, the world population had reached 3 billion in 1960. The planet was in need of more seafood and a more practical method to get fish out of the ocean; this was the evolution of overexploitation. Mammoth nets called “gillnets” that spread miles wide are attached to boats, bottom trawls scrape across the ocean floor, and the nets simply catch everything that swims near them. This method has been very effective in catching the most amount of fish and seafood ever seen before – the economy was increasing in coastal countries across the globe, and fish prices heavily dropped in stores as more and more stock was collected daily. In Prince Edward Island, high-quality mussels were being collected by the thousand and shipped across the globe in a global market. The same was happening to the wild pacific salmon off the coast of British Columbia. Nonetheless, this was happening at a very unsustainable rate.
As can be seen in Newfoundland, India, the Irish Sea, and many more places across the globe, large fish stocks are becoming depleted. Since 1950, 90% of the world’s predatory fishes have been depleted of the ocean, including tuna, cod, and blue whale. As well, as the trawls crossed the ocean floor, habitat fragmentation occurred – the ocean floor was being destroyed. Many unwanted creatures were also getting tangled up in these nets and were simply getting discarded. PEI was running out of mussels, BC was running out of salmon, and the global demand wasn’t slowing down. This method of fishing couldn’t keep up, and the benefits didn’t cancel out the disadvantages – new methods that keep the fish stock thriving were in demand for creation.
Around the 1970’s, two new fishing methods became popular, both with their own pros and cons. These methods were more efficient and required fewer workers to meet the growing demand. These benefits accompanied the issue of cheaper quality, although the demand for seafood needed to be slowed down. The first method created was fish hatcheries – fish are created in bulk inside an indoor factory. Thousands of fish live inside fish hatcheries, where they are produced, raised, and then released into the ocean until they are later captured and eaten. This is very effective as thousands of large fish are born daily. As well, less space is taken up, the fish grow quicker, and the fish are healthier and more nutritious due to genetic altering. More jobs are created because more fish are created – this raises the economy. Finally, this method is very sustainable as there will always be more fish being born. This method could be found all across Canada from southern Ontario to BC and even in remote locations including northern Saskatchewan as this method doesn’t take up water or ocean space – only land, and Canada has an abundance of vast, unoccupied land.
However, with the pros comes cons: Fish hatcheries are the McDonalds of fishing – lots of animals confined in a small area with a terrible quality of life, all genetically modified to grow larger and faster. If one fish has a virus, they all do, and disease spreads extremely quickly among the dense living space. Pollution is created due to greenhouse gasses and a large amount of fish waste, and the water where the fish swim is generally dirty. 7,500 tons of nitrogen and 1,240 tons of phosphorus are released into the atmosphere every year from salmon fish hatcheries – the result is equivalent to the annual sewage produced by the city of Vancouver. Finally, these fish are fed the same diet every day, which contributes to the less pure and “cheaper” taste of these fish.
The second major method is called aquaculture or fish-farming and comes with its own issues. The method of aquaculture is raising fish or ocean plants for food or resources. A net is placed with thousands of fish in the ocean, where fish grow and support the remaining area until they are ready for harvest. This method is found all over the east coast of Canada, and with salmon in southwestern BC – this was a new and better way to create more of the high-demand seafood. The benefits of aquaculture include increased efficiency and less required space, and other similar pros as the fish hatcheries. As well, fish waste helps to create nutrients in the ocean and helps ocean plants to thrive. On the contrary, there are many disadvantages to this method. These include pollution, escapes, and change in biodiversity. When fish are densely living together in the nets, disease easily spreads and may spread to other species also living in the marine biome, even if those species are not being fish-farmed.
Fish escapes are inevitable, and their consequences cause many issues. Smaller, newborn fish may escape the net, or larger fish may create a tear. When fish escape into the surrounding area, they are prone to reproduction, and mixing with the native fish will discompose the biodiversity. These escaped species are invasive and very strong competitors – when the fish are in their net, they fight with hundreds of fish for food and survival, so competing with native species is no challenge. For example, in the 1970’s, many Pacific oysters escaped their nets in the UK. This species grew in population until it was deemed invasive and forced out all the native, Atlantic oysters. Today, no more Atlantic oysters can be found on the coasts of England due to this aquaculture disaster.
After an era of technological advancement, many fishermen searching for the optimal method look back to the Canadian First Nations tribes – they look at the old-fashioned, classic way with the fishing rod and bait, and question all we have progressed in the industry of fishing – but is the old way the best way? This method causes the least amount of pollution and creates no habitat fragmentation. As well, these fish are higher quality and pure, and this method is sustainable – it doesn’t change the biodiversity of the surrounding area if performed correctly. More workers are required for this approach to fishing which could support the Canadian economy and lower the unemployment rate. Nevertheless, this is the most ineffective method that exists, and very little money would be paid to the workers as less fish are caught. And most importantly, 16.4kg of fish are eaten annually per capita, and this method doesn’t supply this extreme demand for seafood.
The issue of fishing affects very many, and millions in Canada alone take strong viewpoints on the optimal approach to fishing. Environmentalists tend to look ahead at all the benefits and disadvantages and see the bigger picture and future of fish: that all these methods don’t work. They dislike the pollution and toxins spread by hatcheries, they are unhappy with the fish escapes from aquaculture, and they despise the habitat fragmentation caused by overexploitation. As well, they understand that classic fishing doesn’t meet the modern demand. It seems as though environmentalists prefer aquaculture similarly to how Churchill prefers democracy: the worst except for all the others.
Health officials despise fish hatcheries and aquaculture due to their toxin spreading, and encourage old-fashioned fishing and overexploitation as the source of the freshest, healthiest fish in the ocean – they fail to recognize the unsustainability of the ocean. Wealthy citizens prefer classic fishing as it provides the highest quality fish, and the lower end citizens prefer any method but that as they are looking for price drops in local stores. Citizens facing unemployment prefer fish hatcheries and aquaculture as they provide hundreds of well-paying jobs across Canada. And ethically, the classic method provides the best quality of life for the fish, but this principle is less relevant to citizens today.
Canada’s economy is dropping quickly due to the lower amounts of oil being mined daily, and we need a stronger economy. However, the prevailing issue with this long-standing dispute is the fight of efficiency versus the economy, and with a high demand, efficiency always wins. There will always be a high demand for seafood as millennials love the taste and health specialists continue to emphasize the need in the human body for Omega-3, a vitamin only found in fish. There has been a steady increase in the annual consumption of seafood per capita, and with the population increasing, there is no reason this demand will ever drop. This creates an ever-lasting persistence of methods that are the most efficient, however don’t help the 81¢ Canadian Dollar. For the most part, nobody would want to help the Canadian economy since assisting it creates more expensive fish in stores and less available seafood. Banning efficient methods to create more jobs will not help the economy, as other countries will find ways to provide the stock more efficiently than the economy-supporting method. There is no way to outsmart this prevailing issue unless we hurt our own economy – which is what some citizens are doing.
Efficiency always wins, which is why many citizens are losing hope on helping the economy, and instead determining the wisest method by finding the best for the environment. Unfortunately, all methods have some extremely bad environmental effects, and these approaches to fishing cannot continue. The only method that doesn’t harm the environment is classic fishing, however its lack of efficiency doesn’t meet today’s seafood demand. One of these four methods stands out, though, which is aquaculture – its disadvantages to the environment and the economy aren’t as damaging as those of the other three methods.
This method must be continued and encouraged, and the other three should be taxed higher and pressured to stop. There is no way to sustainably overexploit seafood, and hatcheries spread toxins very quickly and produce pollution like a factory. Finally, it’s impossible to fish with the old-fashioned method efficiently enough. The risk of fish escapes must be accepted, as it has the least effects of all these methods and is one of the most efficient. It supports the economy and it’s not very expensive to produce substantial amounts of seafood. More effective aquaculture nets can be created to protect from fish escapes and could be rip-free. These enforced, safer nets would decrease the number of fish escapes exponentially. The method of aquaculture should be praised and encouraged, as it is the best modern fishing method.
In the interest of implementing aquaculture as the major global fishing method, the other methods must be slowed down. No tax must be made to old-fashioned fishing, as it is so ineffective that it has already come to its end on its own, and there is no harm to the environment. On the other hand, there should be a 25% additional sin tax on hatcheries and 40% on any fishing boat using nets longer than 15 meters wide or long, or in which the nets scrape the ocean floor. The disadvantages coming from hatcheries must stop, yet are few compared to the detrimental effects of overexploitation. The future must be one containing seafood, and in order to ensure this, a tax of such guidelines is crucial.
All methods have their benefits and disadvantages, however the unsustainability of overexploitation and the pollution and toxins created from fish hatcheries are issues that must stop. Finally, the classic method always loses the battle of efficiency over the economy. No current methods have the balance of being environmentally friendly yet still efficient and helpful to the economy other than aquaculture, which is why it must be encouraged and the other methods must be stopped. A future with seafood is at the hands of our generation, hence this tax is imperative in making sure that our grandkids will enjoy the same flavorful potato-crusted pacific salmon that we know and love.
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