2018-12-05 06:10:48 UTC
Why is overfishing a problem
In the first chapter we already discussed that globally fishing fleets are
at least two to three times as large as needed to take present day catches
of fish and other marine species. To explain why overfishing is a problem
we first have to get an idea on the scale of the problem.
This is best done by looking at some figures published by the UN Food and
The FAO scientists publish a two yearly report (SOFIA) on the state of the
world's fisheries and aquaculture.(2)
The report is generally rather conservative regarding the acknowledging of
problems but does show the key issue and trends. Due to the difficulty of
aggregating and combining the data it can be stated that the SOFIA report
is a number of years behind of the real situation.
52% of fish stocks are fully exploited
20% are moderately exploited
17% are overexploited
7% are depleted
1% is recovering from depletion
The above shows that over 25% of all the world's fish stocks are either
overexploited or depleted. Another 52% is fully exploited, these are in
imminent danger of overexploitation (maximum sustainable production level)
Thus a total of almost 80% of the world's fisheries are fully- to over-
exploited, depleted, or in a state of collapse. Worldwide about 90% of the
stocks of large predatory fish stocks are already gone. In the real world
all this comes down to two serious problems.
We are losing species as well as entire ecosystems. As a result the
overall ecological unity of our oceans are under stress and at risk of
We are in risk of losing a valuable food source many depend upon for
social, economical or dietary reasons.
The single best example of the ecological and economical dangers of
overfishing is found in Newfoundland, Canada. In 1992 the once thriving
cod fishing industry came to a sudden and full stop when at the start of
the fishing season no cod appeared.
Overfishing allowed by decades of fisheries mismanagement was the main
cause for this disaster that resulted in almost 40.000 people losing their
livelihood and an ecosystem in complete state of decay.
Now, fifteen years after the collapse, many fishermen are still waiting
for the cod to return and communities still haven't recovered from the
sudden removal of the regions single most important economical driver. The
only people thriving in this region are the ones fishing for crab, a
species once considered a nuisance by the Newfoundland fishermen.
Fishing Down The Food Web
It's not only the fish that is affected by fishing. As we are fishing down
the food web(3) the increasing effort needed to catch something of
commercial value marine mammals, sharks, sea birds, and non commercially
viable fish species in the web of marine biodiversity are overexploited,
killed as bycatch and discarded (up to 80% of the catch for certain
fisheries), and threatened by the industrialized fisheries.(4)
Scientists agree that at current exploitation rates many important fish
stocks will be removed from the system within 25 years. Dr. Daniel Pauly
describes it as follows:
"The big fish, the bill fish, the groupers, the big things will be gone.
It is happening now. If things go unchecked, we'll have a sea full of
little horrible things that nobody wants to eat. We might end up with a
marine junkyard dominated by plankton."(5)
Dr. Daniel Pauly, Professor and Director of the University of British
Columbia's Fisheries Centre, gives a short introduction on the problem of
overfishing. A fragment from an Oceana video.(6)
Continue to chapter three: What can I do to help.
(1) The FAO Fish and Aquaculture organisation -
(2) The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) can be found on
http://www.fao.org/sof/sofia/index_en.htm. Figures on this page are taken
from the 2006 version of the report. As of 2011 the situation has became
(3) Fishing down the food chain: After depleting the most valuable fish we
move on the second most valuable fish etc etc. This both involves
physically fishing on different locations (from sea mount to sea mount) as
well as changing to different, usually smaller, species. Between 1950 and
now we systematically worked down our way along the food chain by fishing
out all the top predators one after the other. ?
(4) The total amount of fish we take from the system and consume is rising
every year. In 2005 we consumed 95 million tonnes of fish. 86 million
tonnes of this came from marine fisheries and 9 from inland fisheries.
Fish farming accounted for another 50 million tonnes (43%) of production,
indirect much of this was fed with the fish from the marine fisheries. In
1980 less than 10 percent of all fish came from fish farming. ?
(5) Dr. Daniel Pauly and others, "Fishing Down Marine Food Webs" SCIENCE
Vol. 279 (February 6, 1998), pgs. 860-863. ?
(6) Fisheries on the Brink, Oceana. video.google.com. Edited by the author
Climate Hillbilly Davis
Climate Hillbilly Davis