The immediate threat posed by overfishing is aggravated by the long-term threat of large-scale changes in marine ecosystems. Saltwater fish spend most of their lives in near-coastal waters, where their environment is continually assaulted by pollution, development or destructive fishing practices. Marine debris ensnares or is ingested by wildlife causing widespread harm.
Now industries are turning their attention to the development of our offshore waters in pursuit of energy sources and for the construction of large-scale aquaculture operations. The massive destruction of wetlands, corals and other vital habitats directly reduces the number of fish the ocean can support. Without healthy, properly functioning marine ecosystems, fish cannot grow and reproduce – in a word, they can’t survive.
To conserve fish, marine mammals, sea turtles and other ocean wildlife, we must preserve the quality of their environment. Disturb it, alter it or contaminate it, and they suffer. Sometimes they die outright. More often the effects are subtle, almost imperceptible. As their environment deteriorates, their reproduction and development are retarded. Productivity is stifled. The number of fish declines.
Whatever threatens the productivity of the sea is a grave threat to fishing’s future. Wild Oceans works to strengthen protections for coastal and marine habitats essential to the productivity of ocean fisheries. Among other things, we’ve amended national fisheries law to identify and protect “essential fish habitat” as part of all federal fishery management planning.
We sponsored conferences to bring fishermen and environmentalists together to discuss ways to stem the loss of coastal habitat. We’ve spoken out against destructive technologies used to survey the ocean floor for non-renewable energy reserves and against a piecemeal approach to developing industrial-scale aquaculture operations offshore.
We obtained national and international protections for pelagic sargassum, open-ocean habitat for a diverse assemblage of marine life including young sea turtles, numerous marine birds, at least 145 species of invertebrates, and over 100 species of fishes. We helped safeguard fragile deep sea corals through a network of protection zones that prohibit destructive mobile bottom-tending gear from operating in these valuable habitats. And we’re working with U.S. fishery managers to develop, implement and strengthen Fishery Ecosystem Plans in the Atlantic and Pacific.