Experts have reiterated that sharks, and all other big fish, must be left to live in peace if we are to save our planet.
Recent research suggests fishing trends need to significantly improve and that humans, as a rule, need to allow fish to exist without the threat of being hunted or killed, so they may continue to be the ‘carbon sink’ of the ocean when they die.
The ‘carbon pump’, as it is known, has been largely ignored up until now but, according to scientist, is extremely important when it comes to battling climate change. The process is essentially where nature’s big fish absorb greenhouse emissions and are able to transfer this into ocean bed storage when it sinks to the bottom upon death – thus slowing down the process of global warming.
The findings from the study in Science Advances, state the importance of larger fish, like sharks, are an imperative addition not only to the oceanic ecosystem, but to the long-term survival of the human race, Metro reports.
Notably, when a fish – big or otherwise – dies, it sinks to the bottom of the sea, where it releases the carbon it has absorbed and is stored within the ocean bed. However, human activities such as poaching and fishing are further preventing this from happening, thus reducing sealife’s intake of carbon and our atmosphere damaging at a faster, more harmful rate.
Gael Mariani, an author and PhD student at Montpellier University in France, reiterates a fish’s vital importance: ‘But when a fish is caught the carbon it contains is partly emitted into the atmosphere as CO2 a few days or weeks after.’
‘We need to fish better,’ he simply says.
Studies have found an alarming 730 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide has been released, as a result of fishing, since 1950. It’s estimated that just over 20 million metric tonnes was released in 2014 alone, which is the equivalent of what the emissions from 4.5 million would annually produce.
David Mouillot, the study’s co-author, claims the carbon footprint for the fishing practices is an estimated 25% more than experts were aware, citing: ‘Fishing boats produce greenhouse gases by consuming fuel. And now we know extracting fish releases additional CO2 that would otherwise remain captive in the ocean.’
Around 10-15% of this oceanic carbon intake is achieved by tuna, sharks, mackerel, and swordfish because, as Mouillot says, ‘When these fish die, they sink rapidly.’
‘As a result, most of the carbon they contain is sequestered at the bottom of the sea for thousands or even millions of years,’ he revealed. ‘They are therefore carbon sinks – the size of which has never been estimated before.’
Whales, dolphins, sea turtles, sea birds, and other mammals also play a key role in the process.
Overfishing, it’s concluded, has to stop in order to preserve the order of the ocean. Specifically, the regions where fishing is not economically sustainable, such as Central Pacific, South Atlantic, and the North Indian oceans.
‘Fishing boats sometimes go to very remote areas – with enormous fuel consumption – even though the fish caught in these areas are not profitable and fishing is only viable thanks to subsidies,’ warns Mariani.
Mariani further reiterates the need for change in the wake of their discovery:
The annihilation of the blue carbon pump represented by large fish suggests new protection and management measures must be put in place, so more can remain a carbon sink and no longer become an additional CO2 source.
And in doing so we further reduce CO2 emissions by burning less fuel.
Where forests and wetlands are acknowledged as significant natural storage places for carbon and are protected within the Paris Climate Agreement, researchers now want to see the ocean’s contribution recognised and protected too.
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