GECO columnists reflect on the impact of oceans on global ecosystem

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By Jolina Kennedy and Quinn Heist, GECO Correspondents

The oceans are one of the greatest mysteries to humankind. Even though oceans cover 70 percent of the earth’s surface because of its vastness and the sheer abundance of creatures living under the surface so little is actually known. However, there is one thing we all know and love about the ocean, and that is the fish.

Fish is not only delicious, but it is also very good for you so everywhere the demand for fish is rising. Fish currently make up about 13% of protein consumption globally, this means that without all that fish there would be a serious problem of malnutrition.

The question is: do we need to worry about our fish supplies? Will there come a time when you can no longer get fish at your local supermarket? Unfortunately that is becoming a large concern.

As populations rise and developing countries advance the demand for fish becomes ever greater. Unfortunately there is not an endless supply of fish in the vast oceans. The depletion of fish is becoming all too apparent to fishermen who bring back less food.

In many coastal communities the market is heavily dependent on the fishing industry and without enough fish some regions face serious economic issues. Since we are over-harvesting fish, they are not be able to reproduce as quickly and their populations suffer, creating even greater problems for future years.

However, do not despair, there are still ways in which we can make the effort help save fish and fill our plates. There are many ways in which fish are caught. Some methods include trolling, using nets, using cages, hook-and-line or recently fish farming.

Among these methods trolling is the worst since it destroys the ocean floor and therefore the foundation of the ecosystem. Another major issue to most of these methods is the bycatch, which consists of all the other creatures caught in the process.

Unfortunately, bycatch represented upwards of 20 percent of what is caught in the ocean, and those animals are simply tossed back into the ocean dead or alive. Technology has taken great bounds in reducing this figure but these new techniques had to be globally instated to make a difference.

Fisheries have become increasingly abundant as technology and genetic modification have made them excellent sources of fish. Along with new fishing practices we can all make an effort to choose fish that is abundant, has been caught correctly or is a local fish. By trying to be more selective we can hope to see a brighter future for all the fish in the sea.

But watch out, bigger fish have high levels of magnesium because of the natural build up from lower trophic levels to higher. Magnesium is not at all good for us so ideally we should avoid eating too much large fish. FUN FACT (or maybe not so fun): Did you know a lot of female fish in the oceans are on birth control?

All women taking birth control naturally have to pee, but it is contaminated with the hormones from birth control. Water treatment facilities do not have a way of dealing with these chemicals so they, along with other drugs, are left to release into the ocean.

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Author: Brendan Raleigh

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