The Great Decline: Global Fisheries

The world’s oceans, which encompass more than two-thirds of the global, are continuing a rapid decline that began just a few decades ago. Fisheries are dwindling and the world’s largest ecosystems are falling apart as global fish fleets remove far more oceanic wildlife that the seas can provide. Existing conservation laws and restrictions exists, but are too easily ignored or only selectively enforced. The cause of this destruction is as simple as it could possibly be: nearly one billion people rely on the ocean as their primary protein source and tens of millions more derive all their income from fishing. It is a futile struggle to tell these populations to look elsewhere for food when the resources of the oceans seem so plentiful, but overfishing will only end badly. Since the 1980s, global seafood catches have continually declined in the face of technological advancement and larger fishing fleets. Relentless overfishing will only aggravate the existing scarcity, preventing any chance the oceanic ecosystems have of recovering. Every year, these fisheries will provide fewer resources to the people that rely on them.

Foreign governments that ought to be seriously addressing the sustainability of their food sources are often prone to contribute to the problem. Enormous subsidies are given to fishing fleets with the intent of increasing their ability to fish despite declining returns. Agencies such as Oceana contend that the elimination of these subsidies would be the single greatest action in the effort to prevent overfishing and restore the world’s fisheries for future generations.

The following figures are as presented by the Oceana report, Oceans in Trouble
Key Findings of Recent Fisheries Related Research:

  • Scientists project the collapse of all species of wild seafood that are currently fished by mid-century.  (B. Worm et al., 2006)
  • 90 percent of all the “big fish” – tuna, marlin, and sharks – are gone. (R. Myers et al., 2003)
  • It is estimated that 85 percent of the world commercial fish populations are fully exploited, over-exploited, depleted or recovering from depletion. (SOFIA 2010)
  • Of the top ten species that account for about 30 percent of the world capture fisheries production in terms of quantity, six correspond to stocks that are considered to be fully exploited or over-exploited (anchoveta, Chilean jack mackerel, Alaska pollock, Japanese anchovy, blue whiting and Atlantic
    herring). (SOFIA 2011)
  • Globally, fish provides more than 1.5 billion people with almost 20 percent of their average per capita intake of animal protein, and 3.0 billion people with at least 15 percent of such protein. (SOFIA 2010)
  • Fisheries subsidies also have been found to support illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. A recent study estimates the cost of illegal and unreported fishing alone at US$10–23.5 billion per year. (D. Agnew et al. 2009)

EU Specific Findings:

  • According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), European Union countries comprise the third largest global fishing “nation” behind China and Peru. In 2009, EU countries caught more than five million tons of fish and employed more than 140,000 people as fishers.
  • Spain accounts for 25 percent of fisheries employment in the EU. Spain, Greece and Italy combined account for 60 percent of fisheries employment. (European Commission 2010)
  • The EU is responsible for 4.6 percent of the world’s fisheries and aquaculture production, making it the fourth largest producer worldwide. The EU’s top three most fished species are Atlantic herring, sprat and blue whiting, which comprise 30 percent of all EU catch. (European Commission 2010)
  • In Europe, 63 percent of the fish stocks in the Atlantic and 82 percent in the Mediterranean are over-fished. A recent impact assessment by the European Commission concluded that if the status quo is maintained and fishing continues at the current rate, only nine percent of European fish stocks would be managed at sustainable levels by 2022, despite the commitment by countries to manage all fisheries sustainably by 2015. (European Commission 2011)

Source: Oceana


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