whale

In an op-ed piece for the New York Times, Junichi Sato, executive director of Greenpeace Japan, elucidates on a growing problem with humanity’s impact on the ocean particularly commercial fishing: incidental whale and dolphin deaths.

While much of the world has banned commercial whaling, Sato says the giant creatures along with dolphin and porpoise species are in great danger as a result of the recent and rapid fishing industry. According to Sato: “The whaling industry has changed beyond recognition since 1970, when 39,000 whales a year were being killed. In 2012, the worldwide total was 1,000. But far more whales are dying every year because of human activities, and the problems that caused whale populations to plummet worldwide are now affecting fish.”

Ocean acidification, pollution and overfishing are leading to some 300,000 dolphin, porpoise and whale deaths each year says the International Whaling Commission. These changes are not only reducing the numbers of top predators—but also destroying ecosystems. Without strong cetacean numbers, oceanic environments experience domino effects—some species collapse while others proliferate, creating imbalances that may be irreversible says Sato, ” Our appetite for fish is exceeding the oceans’ ecological limits, with devastating impacts on marine ecosystems. Scientists are warning that overfishing results in profound changes in our oceans, perhaps changing them forever.”

Likewise, shark populations are also being drastically diminished by overfishing and the practice of shark finning, which has been banned in several parts of the world, including Western U.S. states: California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii.

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Image: Mike Johnston