Overfishing Pushing Argentine Hake Fishery to Collapse


photo: Procsilas Moscas via flickr

Overfishing is a problem not limited by national boundary or species, as an interesting piece in Tierramérica illustrates: The Argentine Hake (known in Latin as Marluccius hubbsi and in Spanish as merluza) is the preferred fish in an otherwise meat-loving nation, but due to indiscriminate fishing and a growing export market the fishery is on the brink of collapse--meaning that while there will still be hake in the sea, it won't be commercially viable to catch them. WATCH VIDEO - Blue August: Overfishing in Our Oceans

Signs of the decline: Younger fish have always been taken along with adult fish, something which means fewer and fewer fish reach breeding age. Today more than 60% of hake caught are juveniles. Fishing companies have resisted using nets which would allow the smaller fish to escape, protecting the future catch and ultimately leading to the loss of their jobs.

A member of the Maritime Workers union told Tierramérica,

When I began fishing 27 years ago, we did between three and five trips to sea per month, and now it's half that. To fill the boat's hold with 150 tons of fish, you have to stay out at sea 10 to 12 days each trip; while before it was three to four days, and we would return with big fish.

Like many other fisheries, the actual catch is in excess of officially reported numbers: For Argentine hake the official figure was 280,000 tons caught; the true catch is more in the 450,000 ton range.

Read more: Tierramérica
Prioritizing Ecologically Destructive Short-Term Gain Just Forestall's the Pain
Beyond the details of the story, which are interesting, the thing the take away from this is that the plot points of this narrative--one of the key ones being fishermen prioritizing short-term profits over the long-term sustainability of the fishery--apply equally well to pretty much every natural resource. Protecting immediate jobs, immediate economic status quo conditions, in order to prevent immediate hardship is entirely counterproductive when doing so only continues to support consumption of a resource in excess of the ability for it to reproduce sustainably. Failure to heed this law is behind nearly every major civilizational collapse in historic times.

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More on Overfishing:
Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Will Be Gone in 3 Years at Current Fishing Rates
Overfishing is Slowing, But Only in Areas With Good Fisheries Management
Eco-Myth: Humans Have Only Been Overfishing the World's Oceans in Modern Times
Fuel Subsidies Simply Prop Up Destructive Industrial Fishing, Hurt Small-Scale Fishermen< />

Tags: Argentina | Fishing