Out of fish out of mind

Ocean conservation and management have been much discussed recently with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill (more of a gush than a spill, though) dominating our news. The oil and the dispersants used to hide the oil will likely impact marine life for some time, but they are only some of the many factors currently impacting our oceans. Commercial fishing is greatly affecting marine life and several recent studies have highlighted its global impact.

The United Nations four-yearly review of global fisheries found that 30% of fish populations have collapsed, while another 45% are fished at their maximum levels. Only 25% of commercial fish populations are fished at healthy levels. Fishing is a huge and important industry, employing 35 million people directly and an additional 140 million indirectly, and is a valuable supplier of protein for many people. Twenty million boats fish are oceans, a number that is simply too high. Many of these boats and fishing operations are not profitable due to low fish abundance and rely on government subsidies to the tune of $27 billion annually to survive. Worldwide, fishermen are being paid to fish for a limited resource, further driving fish populations to damagingly low numbers.

On top of this, a recent scientific paper in the journal Science (“Closing loopholes: getting illegal fishing under control”) found that illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is contributing greatly to overfishing. IUU represents up to 26 million tons of seafood, equivalent to one-fifth of the global catch. The value of this illegal catch is almost $24 billion each year, but could be greatly controlled if nations better managed which boats entered their ports. Reducing fishing subsidies would also be an environmentally-logical and money-saving idea. The UN report also highlighted that a relatively small investment of US$8 billion a year would rebuild global fisheries, which in time would greatly increase global seafood production and generate profits exceeding $1 trillion.

To help protect our oceans, choose your seafood wisely:

2 Comments on “Out of fish out of mind

  1. Well said. Now we need to get the governments to pull their finger out and DO something. I have worked as a scientific observer on commercial fishing boats and it seems that industry just has so much more power and money the governments hands can be tied. When the department from my home country tried to bring in some legislation that was going to make it tougher on industry to overfish the company took them to court and claimed they were violating fair trade because they brought in the restrictions too soon. They won.

  2. Thanks for making such a valuable blog, sincerely Kobos Mathers.

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