EarthLabs > Fisheries

Fisheries Unit Overview

Why study Fisheries?

Fish haul in the Western Indian Ocean. Photo courtesy of NOAA Photo Library (more info) , Fisheries Collection, image ID 2162.

A vast range of species from plankton to large marine mammals, call the ocean home. Marine ecosystems provide humans with a wide range of services and are vital contributors to the overall health of our planet. These ecosystems supply us with food, maintain water quality, and are popular tourist destinations. Unfortunately, overfishing, coastal development, pollution, and the introduction of exotic species, have caused significant decreases in the diversity of marine species worldwide. Marine ecosystems, like other complex systems, need all of their working parts in order to function properlyevery species lost weakens the entire ecosystem.

More than a billion people worldwide rely on fish as their main source of protein. Globally, fishing is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. However, unsustainable and destructive fishing practices are taking their toll on the oceans. Nearly 75% of the world's fisheries are fished to capacity or beyond. If no changes are made, seafood supplies will be fully depleted in less than fifty years. Threats to the world's fisheries, combined with the demand for their services, present a need for response on global, regional, and local levels.

Traditionally, fisheries management has focused largely on individual species or resources in isolation. However, the complex nature of marine ecosystems requires a management approach that considers the entire system as a whole. Learning about sustainable fishing practices and ecosystem-based management of marine resources will prepare you to be an active participant in the efforts to restore one of Earth's most precious commoditiesfish.

What will I learn?

This unit will introduce you to many of the complex issues facing fisheries management. The 8 investigations incorporate some of the most current research data and visualizations available. Using data from a variety of locations, you will learn about some of the human activities and climatic phenomena that threaten the sustainability of fisheries. You will also learn about some of the ecosystem-based management techniques that are being implemented to help heal wounded ecosystems around the world.

Key Questions addressed by this unit include:




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