“Synergizing Destruction”.

Photo by MPBecker | flickr.com

Too often, I read about fishing practices that I find to be inhumane and extremely reckless for our marine environment. I recently read about the process of cyanide fishing, a method used to capture live fish, usually for aquariums or restaurants with tanks of live fish.

Sodium Cyanide tablets are crushed into squirt bottles filled with sea water and then sprayed around coral reefs. This process stuns large amounts of fish, making them easier to catch. Sometimes, in order to retrieve disoriented fish or those that hide in crevices of the reef, divers use hammers or crowbars to break down the reef structures.

When coral is exposed to this cyanide solution, even if left in tact, it is killed by cyanide poisoning. Studies have shown that around 80% of collected fish die before being sold mostly due to post-capture and handling stress. Unfortunately, this number only drives fisherman to increase their catch to make up for losses.

In addition, lingering concentrations of cyanide in the ocean can eventually damage respiratory and digestive systems in fish. It is also lethal for coral polyps and other vertebrate offspring and can reduce levels of photosynthesis in certain species.

I find that human practices that are especially detrimental to our environment tend to follow a pattern of `synergized destruction` wherein the activity, aimed at effecting one aspect of the environment, trickles down to create many subsequent atrocities, working together to deteriorate several aspects of the environment.

The fact that it is done for profit makes it that much worse. We often see effects like habitat destruction and endangerment of species extending to all trophic levels. This kind of prolonged and widespread damage to basic structures in our environment can render certain ecosystems uninhabitable. Other human activities that perpetuate synergized destruction would include logging, fishing, hunting and oil drilling, to name a few.

While this practice has been banned in most areas, it is still used due to its high economic benefit. Prevention methods include monitoring of cyanide levels in fish, creating awareness among local fishermen and offering alternative fishing methods.

I think in order to drive down the value of these fish, industries need to be stringent about not accepting species collected this way.

As consumers and concerned citizens, let’s use synergy to piece our environment together rather than tearing it apart. So, the next time you look into a tank of exotic fish, think about how it got there and what it means for the ecosystem it used to inhabit.