Humans, as super predators, are the most disturbing factor to entire ecosystem, new research suggests.
A study published in the Science journal and authored by Chris Darimont, ecologist at the University of Victoria, British Columbia suggests that if we want to keep fishing and hunting and engaging in these activities in a sustainable manner, we have a thing or two to learn from the exact beings we are preying on.
The study, looking at over 2,000 predator-prey interactions, found that humans are the greatest predators of them all. And not in terms of skill, but in terms of preying rates. We are fishing and hunting at unsustainable rates.
Let’s look for instance at carnivores that are mostly hunted as trophies across the world and rarely for any other purposes. Annually, humans kill nine times more carnivores than the same carnivores kill each other. The latter are killing approximately 2 percent of their own on an annual basis, while humans are responsible for killing 18 percent of the population.
For herbivores, the study has found, we kill approximately 6 percent of the population annually, while carnivore predators are killing 5 percent of the herbivore population annually.
With fish, it becomes worrying indeed. Typically, we fish the adult population globally. It is pricier, it sells better on markets, its value is higher and in some regions of the world, fish is the main source of protein. Entire communities depend on fish to survive.
Yet, if we look at piscine predators, such as birds or other marine predators, these will almost always go for the young fish of any species. Admittedly, for a bird that has a narrow gape it would be difficult to gulp down a large adult of a fish species. Yet, these are mechanisms developed in time.
Now, back to the super predators. Compared to the rate at which piscine predators hunt fish, we fish 14 times more and almost exclusively on adult fish populations.
Overall, we, the super predators have a penchant for preying almost exclusively on the adults of all animal or fish species. It is understandable that population growth has increased demand for food. Yet, there are many ways in which this can be offset, without creating imbalances within ecosystem. There is usually little risk involved in hunting or fishing and that gives us an advantage. An unfair one.
“We reason that natural predators, which almost never cause prey to decline rapidly … are the only true models of long-term sustainable exploitation. In that respect, they can provide us some behavioral guidance”,
noted Dr. Darimont.
That indicates to a shift in policies and animal and fish population management plans at a global level. And a change of perception. We need to be aware that as the kings of the global jungle, we should prey less on adults in their reproductive prime and more on elders or youngster, as is the case with fish.
We are the only super predators that turn large carnivores into victims. Doing so for sports affects ecosystems otherwise and shifts their nature entirely.
Photo Credits: Yahoo