There Aren’t Plenty of Fish in the Sea

One of the biggest threats to fisheries on a global scale is overfishing. Caused due to fish being caught at a rate faster than they can reproduce, overfishing is currently impacting more than 85% of the world’s fish resources . Overfishing typically results from a lack of oversight which causes administrators to have difficulty regulating and enforcing proper fishing activity. Another driving force behind overfishing is government funded subsidies which produce an excess in fishermen, currently estimated to be 2.5 times more than the amount needed .These factors along with the lack of adequately protected waters—with only 1.5% of the oceans designated as protected areas—cause many more fish to be caught than is optimal for the environment. Often, many of the excess fish are juveniles who have not yet reproduced, creating a fish scarcity which can be devastating for both the environment and local economies. The effects of overfishing can be disastrous for ecosystems, resulting in an imbalance of predators to prey causing a population surge in smaller fish which can in turn overwhelm coral reefs. This disruption to the ecosystem can further reduce the population of fish in an area, putting the livelihoods of local fishermen in jeopardy.

Many Greek fishermen are currently experiencing this financial insecurity as stocks in the Mediterranean, the world’s most overfished sea, continue to dwindle. According to Paraskeva Vasilakopoulos from the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research in Athens, “the vast majority of stocks” in the Mediterranean “are below safe biological limits” as a result of “overexploitation” combined with “catch[ing] too many fish before they get the chance to reproduce”. In an effort to combat overfishing, Greece has been working to reduce the number of fishermen by offering money in exchange for the fishermen giving up their fishing license and boat. Greece hopes that through this reduction in fishermen more fish will be able to spawn, reducing the scarcity of fish in the Mediterranean. Greece is also working to increase fishing surveillance with the goal of better enforcing fishing regulations in line with those in the European Union’s 2014 Common Fisheries Policy which set a maximum limit for fishing and restricted fishermen’s ability to dump extra fish into the water. In doing so, Greece believes it will cut down on the practice of bottom trawling, in which large boats drag a net along the seafloor to collect all of the fish in a particular region, which is very popular in the Mediterranean and plays a large role in the overfishing crisis. This practice not only destroys the ocean floor, but also leads to the collection of many juvenile fish that are then discarded, often meaning that these fish did not reproduce in their lifetimes. Bottom trawling alone produces 50% of all discarded fish in the Mediterranean, and, as it is frequently carried out by larger corporations, has played a large role in the instability of smaller fishermen’s businesses. Many Greek fishermen have watched their catches decrease by half as overfishing has worsened in recent years, forcing many out of the business as fishing is no longer profitable enough for them to support their families. Greece recognizes this difficulty and has also been exploring the practice of open-ocean fish farming in order to artificially spur on the fish supply until regulations can be effectively established and enforced to steady the fish population naturally. Additionally, in 2017, Greece signed the MedFish4Ever Declaration , a 10-year plan designed to manage fisheries, which Greece feels is a demonstration of its commitment to working towards the elimination of overfishing in the Mediterranean.

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