Overfishing: Losing Nemo

What is overfishing?

Overfishing means fishing at a faster rate than the fish can be naturally replaced in a certain area – it is unsustainable and leads to a depletion of the fish population.

Overfishing is a topic that has received a lot of attention in recent years but unfortunately, the situation appears to be gradually worsening. What exactly are the causes and effects of overfishing, and what is currently being done to combat this problem?

This video “Losing Nemo” presents the problem of overfishing and provides important information about the state of the world’s marine life:

3/4 of the world’s fish stocks are being harvested faster than they can reproduce. Eighty percent are already fully exploited or in decline. Ninety percent of all large predatory fish – including tuna, sharks, swordfish, cod and halibut – are gone.

Scientists predict that if current trends continue, world food fisheries could collapse entirely by 2050.

study of catch data published in 2006 in the journal Science grimly predicted that if fishing rates continue at the current pace, all the world’s fisheries will have collapsed by the year 2048.

What is causing overfishing?

Worldwide, there are simply far too many fishing fleets for our oceans to sustainably support. It has been calculated that there is two to three times more fishing being carried out than the earth can take.

On top of this overcapacity, many fishing practices cause “collateral damage” to marine life. There are several unselective fishing practices and use of fishing gear that cause tremendous destruction to fish that are not actually the target: bycatch / discards and bottom trawling destruction are two examples of this.

The effects of overfishing on our system

Is it too late?

In short, no: even though it will take many years, it is still possible to reverse the damage that has been done to the earth’s fishing resources by implementing the following:

  • Controls on by-catch: The use of techniques or management rules to prevent the unintentional killing and disposal of fish, crustaceans and other oceanic life not part of the target catch or landed.
  • Protection of pristine and important habitats: The key parts in ecosystems need full protection from destructive fisheries; e.g. the spawning and nursing grounds of fish, delicate sea floor, unique unexplored habitats, and corals.
  • Monitoring and Enforcement: A monitoring system to make sure fishermen do not land more than they are allowed to, do not fish in closed areas and cheat as less as possible. Strong monetary enforcement is needed to make it uneconomic to cheat.

Real-life example of overfishing:

The cod fishing industry off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, collapsed in 1992, causing 40,000 people to lose their jobs. 

What organizations are fighting against overfishing?