Since prehistoric times, humans have relied upon the waters of the ocean to derive the much-needed food for their livelihood. This is because the ocean contains elements and organisms, which form a critical component of the existing food chain. Fishes are primarily the major component of this food chain, however, there are significant variations seen according to the geographical disposition. This is because acceptance levels for the types of organisms coming from the ocean are subject to cultural differences emanating from the different practices of a particular people. This proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the ocean is indeed taken into consideration as a limitless resource of food for the human populace.
The Ocean’s Relevance to Food Production
The ocean provides a significant percentage of the overall food consumption varieties consumed by the vast human population. This is considering the constantly increasing world population variables. This is especially common in those geographical regions considered to predominantly fishing societies. These people provide a critical link towards the provision of essential components of daily dietary needs in order to sustain the human health and constantly increasing energy needs. The normal dietary needs consist of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. According to current estimates of daily human protein intake levels, 10% of human protein predominantly comes from ocean resources (The Columbia Encyclopedia, 2004). Recently it has also emerged that the food resources do not benefit humans alone but include livestock. According to the Columbia Encyclopedia, “Increasingly, people are turning to the oceans for their food supply either by direct consumption or indirectly by harvesting fish that is then processed for livestock feed” (The Columbia Encyclopedia, 2004).
Further research initiatives have established changing food consumption patterns especially in societies that were initially predominantly non-fish consumers. In certain Asian societies the practice has been vegetarian these has come to change due to the constantly diminishing alternative food resources. For instance, fish supplies are currently more than 10% of proteins consumed in Europe and North America, 17% in Africa, 22% in China, and 26% in Asia (Tidwell & Allan, 2001). Another reason for the changing food patterns is an attribute of the changing preferences of food towards more healthy protein alternatives. This is because it has been found that shellfish and fish have high protein content, low in fat, better nutritional component in comparison to other available and commonly consumed proteins (Tont & Delistraty, 1977).
Impact of commercial fishing
The contemporary practice of harvesting fish from the oceans has led to a growing concern among environmental conservation bodies regarding sustainability of the practice in the current context of events. Fish provides substantial socio-economic relevance to the human societies depending upon the practice for their livelihood. These can especially be found among communities living along key coastlines where fish is known to breed. In fact, aquaculture and fishing has provided direct employment for over 36 million persons while a further 200 million derive their income directly or indirectly from fish harvesting (Tidwell & Allan, 2001). Subject to growing population and shrinking food resources, this has led to the overexploitation of potential fishing grounds consequently threatening the delicate food balance of the population. In addition, critical livelihoods are at stake as a result of the bad fishing practices, which threatens the fundamental foundations of some of these societies. For instance, in the period between 1990 and 1997, the world fish consumption patterns increased by 31% while contrary to this, the viable marine captures decreased by a significant 9% (Tidwell & Allan, 2001).
Furthermore, the seashores have undergone significant exploitation for valuable mineral resources, for instance, salt, magnesium, and bromine while other critical continental shelves have undergone exploitation for sand and gravel (The Columbia Encyclopaedia, 2004). Some of these practices are to known to interfere with critical fish breeding grounds leading to decreasing fish numbers. Fish like any other living organism have prominent stages for their growth and development. During the lifespan of a normal fish population there is that time when fish needs to regenerate themselves in terms of numbers through biological regeneration. Therefore, if they are not given a significant amount of time to undergo the process, then this possess significant threat to their potential existence.
Possible conservation measures
Aquaculture posses a viable alternative that can significantly check the over-exploitation of the critical fishing grounds found in the oceans. The practice of aquaculture involves the practice of rearing fish in suitable grounds where they are given sufficient time for growth and development before harvesting. It predominantly a commercial activity and requires significant input to ensure its sustainability. It essentially provides an alternative fish resource coming from inland rearing grounds. Moreover, with the practice of aquaculture one exercises substantial control over harvesting process, production cycle, fish processing and distribution fundamentals (Tidwell & Allan, 2001). In the traditional overfishing practices, there usually results a deficit and wastage. Some of the practices carried out in the oceanic reserves include chemical exploitation and overexploitation of fishing stocks consequently threatening the oceanic food structure (Tont & Delistraty, 1977).
According to research analysis, the future prospects of marine production appear to be significantly larger despite the current standards and may even surpass the current yields (Tont & Delistraty, 1977). The ocean therefore still remains significant in as far as the human food web goes. Diversification of fishing resources holds the key answer through the practice of aquaculture as a viable alternative.