By AMANDA WHEELER
10:15 AM EDT, October 31, 2011
The old saying goes, "there are plenty of fish in the sea," but that's no longer as true as it used to be. In fact, today, it might be more accurate to say "there are many fish in the sea you should avoid eating."
Many fish populations are suffering from over-fishing, which happens when fish are caught at a faster rate than they can reproduce.
If over-fishing happens consistently over multiple breeding seasons, the affected fish can be in danger of becoming endangered or even extinct.
Extinction of ocean fish affects us because we don't get to those kinds of fish anymore. But more importantly, it affects the oceans' ecosystems negatively by removing species that can be vital to other animals' survival.
Fish may serve as food for other animals or consume other animals themselves. If fish populations shrink or disappear, it could mean some animals don't have enough to eat, while other animals may be able to reproduce quickly and over-populate the water, throwing the whole system out of balance.
Back in 2003, the Pew Ocean Commission said the world's oceans were in trouble, that they were in a state of “silent collapse”. Today, we haven't done much to improve the situation.
Over-fishing has the potential to not only affect our food supply but the oceans' ecosystems.
In an effort to protect the world's ocean ecosystems and prevent over-fishing, the Monterey Bay Aquarium runs a program called Seafood Watch. Seafood Watch was started in 1999 and works with consumers, local and nonlocal restaurants, fishermen, suppliers and retailers to create and maintain healthy oceans.
Some of Seafood Watch's goals include supporting environmentally friendly fishing and fish farming; making sure fish species that have been over-harvested have a break so their population numbers can recover; increasing awareness and demand for ocean-friendly seafood; and maintaining the diversity and population of our seas for future generations.
It's important to realize where our food comes from and how much of an impact our food choices really can make on the environment. The populations of large ocean predators such as sharks and swordfish have declined by up to 90 percent, according to some scientists.
In order to help, it's important to be educated about what you are eating.
All fish are not created equal different populations of the same species can be fairing very differently. It's important to know not only what kind of fish you're eating but where it came from.
For example, according to the Seafood Watch guide (online at bit.ly/syMrqN) tilapia farmed in Asia should be avoided, tilapia farmed in Central and South America is a better choice, and the best option for the environment is tilapia farmed right here in the United States.
One of the great things about Seafood Watch is how easy it is to understand. Fish are categorized into one of three groups:
Amanda's Animal Fact of the Week
The fastest fish in the ocean is the sailfish. It can reach speeds of up to 68 miles per hour.
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