A new study by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature monitored over 5,000 species of fish, mollusks, plants, crabs and insects over a five year period and the results have been tremendously discouraging.
Twenty-one percent of the species monitored by the 200 scientists are threatened with extinction. Among the reasons cited for the decline in these species: overfishing and pollution.
Overfishing of aquatic ecosystems is responsible for threatening many species, both fish and other animals such as penguins that feed on fish. According to the report, one species of fish in Lake Malawi has declined 70 percent in the past decade.
Pollution has also been cited as a threat to mollusks in the Congo River.
Humans are the greatest threat to all endangered species, by means of environmental damage, hunting and fishing. We are causing extinctions at over a hundred times the natural pace.
Whenever you read about an endangered species of fish, or threats to an aquatic ecosystem, it is inevitable that the livelihood of fishermen will be a rallying cry for saving the fish. Inevitably, whenever fish are threatened by pollution, predators, or anything else, one of the biggest concerns mentioned is the income of fishermen.
This is not a trend you see when other species are threatened. We are especially biased against fish and we tend to view them as only having value related to their ability to be bought and sold. It’s not without a wince that I read imperatives declaring we must save fish from being killed by pollution, climate change, and oil spills so that they can be killed by humans in a more profitable way.
Fish feel pain just the same as mammals. Killing a fish is no different than killing a mammal. We cannot continue to treat animals as unworthy of our concern and treating fish as even less worthy than other animals. We cannot continue to think of fish only in terms of our ability to profit from them.
The real reason we should work to preserve Africa’s freshwater species is because they contribute to biodiversity. It is because they are unique animals, some of which exist nowhere else on the planet. It is because they are living beings that inhabit our planet, just the same as we do.