Our oceans are in crisis. Massive factory fishing ships are using state-of-the-art technology to target one species of fish at a time, until that population collapses, and then they turn to another species for profit. Chesapeake Bay
In the Atlantic Ocean, one of the worst examples of factory fishing is taking place in the Chesapeake Bay. A small fish called the menhaden, described by some scientists as "the most important fish in the sea," is being systematically targeted by the Omega Protein corporation.
Nearly every ocean predator feeds on menhaden at some point, and many species - including some whales and popular sport fish like striped bass - eat a LOT of them. Fishermen up and down the East Coast have begun expressing concern that there may not be enough menhaden left to supply the rest of the food chain anymore.
Menhaden also play a critical role as filter-feeders in the Chesapeake Bay, where water pollution from farm and sewage runoff creates dead zones - places where plankton blooms choke off all oxygen in the water and kill surrounding wildlife. Healthy menhaden populations would significantly improve water quality.
Along the diverse and beautiful ocean waters of New England, Atlantic Herring populations are being decimated by a form of fishing called "pair trawling." Very large nets are pulled by two relatively small fishing vessels resulting in bycatch and habitat destruction. Pair trawls have been known to catch whales in their pursuit for fish!
Atlantic herring are an important part of the New England ecosystem. They are a staple food source for groundfish stocks like cod, along with many other species including whales, tuna, striped bass and seabirds. But, factory fishing techniques are depleting the populations and putting the health of the ocean ecosystem and many of New England's businesses and coastal communities at risk.
The chilly waters of the North Pacific are home to one of the most productive fishing industries in the world. But, the Council in charge of balancing the needs of the local economy and the health of the ocean environment has been unable to prevent the decline of species such as Pollock, Pacific cod, halibut, or Atka mackerel.
Three of the region's main Pollock fisheries have been closed or severely limited due to overfishing: two in the Bering Sea - the Aleutian Island and Bogoslov fisheries; and one in the Gulf of Alaska, the Shelikof Strait roe fishery.
These fish population declines also have a tremendous impact on the species of marine mammals and seabirds that depend on them for food. Their populations are steadily declining as well, and unless something can be done to stop overfishing and habitat destruction-their populations may decline to a point where they can no longer recover.