What is Aquatic Bushmeat, and Why are People Eating It?

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The world’s population is booming exponentially, and our food supply is not meeting the demand in the way in which we need it to do so. As this happens, more and more people are turning to what is being referred to as aquatic bushmeat.

Bushmeat is traditionally known as meat which is derived from animals living in the wild (eg. antelopes, lions, gorillas, etc.). Aquatic bushmeat is the consumption of wild sea animals such as dolphins, whales, seals and sea turtles.

The consumption of aquatic bushmeat is being seen most commonly in poor communities when animals wash up on the shore. This meat can cause people to become ill or, in more extreme circumstances, cost them their lives. While the meat still may be fresh when harvested and consumed, it is not always known what the animals died from. If from disease or poisoning, they could pose a great health risk to consumers. In some countries, police stand guard in front of these animals until the carcasses are disposed of in order to ensure people do not try to harvest their meat for consumption.

One of the core reasons for the increased consumption of aquatic bushmeat other than our growing global population is that of the impacts unsustainable fishing practices have had on our oceans. The problem has been seen most dramatically in West African countries, most notably in Ghana, as fish stocks have declined steeply over the past years. In order to ensure the population in Ghana and its surrounding West African countries have enough protein from their seafood supply, many are turning to aquatic bushmeat.

However, the consumption of aquatic bushmeat is posing its own issue when it comes to the sustainability of our oceans. These rarer marine animals are now being poached for their meat, causing a decline in their populations, which is impacting the overall marine ecosystem.

It is incredibly important for the population to be both fed and adequately nourished; however, we need to find a way in which to do this without causing further harm to our environment. Firstly, urgent action must be taken on climate change as rising sea levels and coastal erosion are contributing to this crisis. Secondly, we must invest more in sustainable fish farms to ensure we are able to feed the population without causing large-scale environmental damage to our environment.

There is a strong connection between economic, social and environmental sustainability, and the growing concerns around the consumption of aquatic bushmeat need to be addressed on all three of these levels.

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