Overfishing, according to WWF, “occurs when more fish are caught than the population can replace through natural reproduction”(World Wildlife Fund). When this happens, a population becomes threatened, which in turn impacts the rest of its ecosystem. With the reduction of a prominent organism in an ecosystem, the entire ecosystem is affected, especially if the organism is a top predator. With fewer predators around to balance out the number of smaller marine life, there is an abundance of organisms at the bottom of the food chain. This means that conditions in the ecosystem will change and could threaten even more marine life. Overfishing in turn will lead to a lack of these overfished species in the future, either resulting in a destroyed an economy or a shift in attention to another species that is more prevalent.
Overhunting, similar to overfishing, has also lead to a drastic reduction in many well-known large animal populations. This includes the incredible animals we see in our local zoos such as species of bears, tigers, lions, elephants, rhinos, etc. These animals are hunted for many reasons, all of them detrimental to the survival of the species, but some with good intent. Increase in human population is one of these forces contributing to overhunting. With an expanding population comes a need for more living space (think Hitler’s lebensraum). This means expanding towns and cities into established ecosystems, typically destroying the natural landscape. Encroaching into wild lands brings with it other issues. Animals of the ecosystem will not be used to the new order and tend to edge a bit too close to the newly developed buildings and their former homes, causing conflict between humans and the local animals.
Hunting for food, sport, and tradition also plays a large part in overhunting. Trophy hunting, in particular, can be blamed for the reduction in population of many large mammals. Trophy hunting has become quite the controversy in American politics in recent history, gaining significant amounts of attention after the United States’ forty-fifth President, Donald Trump, reversed a ban on the imports of animal trophies from both Zambia and Zimbabwe. This reversed ban has big implications for trophy hunting. It encourages the disturbing and arguably immoral practice of paying to shoot down an endangered animal and taking a part of its body as some sort of prize. Although this legislation is obviously a few paces back in terms of progress for conservation, it has drawn more attention to the barbaric practice of trophy hunting as well as the fight for conservation. And with the incredible and immediate backlash against the new legislation came a strong social stigma against trophy hunting.
According to Josh Robertson and Stefan Hunt’s article on trophy hunting, posted to a website dedicated to discussing conservation, there are some pros alongside the multitude of cons of trophy hunting. If done correctly, trophy hunting is beneficial to the conservationist organizations as well as the locals of the area, providing money, meat, and employment. For instance, waterholes are built by locals in the trophy hunting business in attempts to maximize the animal populations being hunted as well as their food sources’ populations. Although this can help the locals as well as the ecosystem as a whole if done correctly, one wouldn’t necessarily expect an individual that finds gratification in murdering an endangered animal and taking a part of its corpse to have the morals to do things the “right way”. Another argument in favor of trophy hunting is that it leaves a significantly smaller footprint than ecotourism. Although this is true to a certain degree (as the hunters are typically picking off high quality males, hence reducing population growth), it doesn’t make trophy hunting any more morally correct. Just because it is a lesser evil than ecotourism doesn’t make it right.