Known as the American Mediterranean, the Gulf of Mexico is an economic and environmental treasure. Within its 600,000 square miles lie natural wonders and habitats ranging from an underwater Grand Canyon 12,000 feet deep to coral reefs and one of the largest contiguous seagrass beds in the Northern Hemisphere. For years, overfishing has been taking a toll on the world's ninth-largest body of water, and several fish species are at critically low levels.
The extent of damage caused by the 2010 oil spill remains unknown. But the disaster lends urgency to protecting the Gulf's resources, including its diverse bounty of fish. From whales to dolphins to osprey to brown pelicans, important marine animals eat smaller fish and organisms to survive. Prey's role in the food web is critical to a healthy, robust ocean ecosystem. The need to protect this basic prey, which ranges from mullet and menhaden to sardines and anchovies, is growing more urgent in the Southeast. Populations of some of these small fish have plummeted, partly because billions have been scooped up by industrial fishing to serve as ingredients in fertilizer, pet food and other products.
Depleting fish too fast risks unbalancing the ocean ecosystem and harming an economic engine that supports millions of people and jobs. On April 26, Pew Environment Group's Sharon McBreen will give a presentation about the work of Pew's Southeast Fish Conservation Campaign to end and prevent overfishing of important species in Florida such as snappers and groupers and to protect forage fish species.
Sharon McBreen is a senior outreach associate for Pew Environment Group's Gulf of Mexico Fish Conservation Campaign. After working as a reporter and editor at the Orlando Sentinel for 24 years, Sharon decided to turn her passion for fishing and Florida's outdoors into working to preserve Florida's fish populations. She travels the Gulf of Mexico coast and works with fishermen, marine biologists, fishery managers and others to end and prevent overfishing and protect the marine ecosystem.