Mankind is on a crash course with over fishing the ocean directly misbalancing ecosystems that have existed for thousands of years. As the world’s population continues to expand, and with 50% of the world’s population residing near these same waters, people look to the sea as a source of fish and other varieties of seafood. This increased demand has resulted in the over fishing of areas of the world.
Coral reefs are impacted by the trend to over fish in close proximity Coral reefs support different industries including aquarium and biomedical. The continuance of their health and expansion is vital to mankind. Coral reefs are a major part of the fragile ocean balance impacting more than the immediate creatures of the reef.
There are many symbiotic relationships between fish, coral and other creatures. Starting with the zooxanthallae those minute algae that color the reefs and provide the energy through their process of photosynthesis, they in turn provide life substance for the polyps that live in the long calcium carbonate columns. Other creatures also consume the minute algae. Other creatures are consumed by other creatures and a healthy balance of fish and sea creatures continues this cycle.
One would think that something as important and minute as the zooxanthallae would only create problems if they were rejected from the polyps, but consider, if other symbiotic relationships such as damselfish and grouper. Grouper is a very popular fish enjoyed by millions. Grouper if over fished will in turn misbalance the grouper-damselfish balance. Damselfish make holes in the coral in which the algae attach themselves. Without the grouper, the damselfish population can explode. Too many holes will allow the algae to also explode in numbers and can over time actually create a smothering effect killing the polyps of the coral reefs.
When certain species are over fished, there is an adverse effect which is akin to a domino effect where one falls, then another, and then another and so on. The effect of this damage isn’t just to the barrier reef, but also to prey and predator beyond the coral reef. Sharks and barracuda disappear as the coral reefs no long support food sources or sport fishers and others have over fished them. Sport fishing and unauthorized fishing has impacted many of the world’s coral reefs.
Over fishing is a serious problem and more must be done to reverse the effects. More restrictions must be implemented and enforced. Other managed sources for raising fish established. Awareness must be heightened and people realize truly what a serious issue this as become. People must manage the vital resources of the sea and seek out other forms of protein. Already 35 thousand acres of reef have been destroyed in the past few decades, more startling is the possibility that unless care is given to the coral reefs, mankind will lose more than 70% of them within the next couple of decades.
Statistics from a study by NASA