Friday, October 21, 2011

Overfishing Implicated in Sea Urchin Epidemics

Over the past several decades, overfishing and overexploitation have had a detrimental effect on the marine community. For instance, according to an article in Conservation Magazine (January, Vol. 6), the overfishing of sea urchin predators, such as the California spiny lobster, has proven to have both an indirect and negative effect on tropical reefs. When these predators are overfished, it leaves sea urchins more susceptible to disease, thus leading to an eventual decrease in the sea urchin population that would otherwise be regulated by its predators. Without sea urchins around, seaweed and algae, the sea urchin’s primary source of food, are free to grow over the tropical corals, thereby destroying the reef. This not only affects the coral themselves, but other species that might otherwise find shelter and/or food amongst the coral. This is just one example of what can happen when there are no regulations in place to limit the overfishing and overexploitation of marine species. Unintended consequences can trigger a domino effect with wide-ranging implications.


By Michael Lewallen

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