Global Commercial Overfishing – The Problem is Seriously Underestimated
A technological revolution that allows fishing vessels to catch far more fish than ever before, explosive population growth in coastal areas, subsidized fishing in industrialized countries, and an ever-increasing demand for fish products – are all contributing to a global overfishing problem. The consequences of global commercial overfishing for future generations we still cannot even imagine.
Fishing is the main source of living for more than 200 million people, especially in developing countries. According to several UN agencies, commercial fishery is the fastest growing food industry. However, other sobering statistics indicate that the world’s major fish stocks are under threat and increasingly endangered by overfishing.
The magnitude of the overfishing problem is often underestimated, especially against the backdrop of such commensurate problems as deforestation, desertification, wasteful energy use, and other factors of biodiversity depletion. The rapid growth in demand for fish and fish products led to the outstripping growth in fish prices as compared to the growth in meat prices. As a result, investment in fisheries has become more attractive to both private entrepreneurs and government agencies, which is seriously damaging small-scale fisheries and fishing-dependent communities around the world.
The problem persists because the development of global commercial fishing is driven by strong market forces. Increasing direct consumption of fish and seafood has contributed to the rapid expansion of the commercial fishing monopolies that effectively control the world’s fisheries.
Humanity runs the risk of being left without fish in 30 years
At the current rate of exploitation of the resources of the world’s oceans, by 2050 the reserves of fish and other seafood of the planet will be completely depleted. This conclusion was reached by an international group of scientists, which for four years studied 7,800 species of marine individuals in the global ecosystem. According to scientists, in 29 years the fish catch will fall by an average of 90% compared to 1950.
Experts say that the growing volumes of fishing sharply reduce the ability of the oceans for self-regulation, reproduction of resources, and resistance to global climate change. They have found that over the past millennium, in 12 regions of the planet 38% of commercial species of ichthyofauna, as well as birds, were on the verge of complete extinction. Moreover, such a destruction of the marine ecosystem has occurred in the last half-century.
In recent years, commercial stocks of sea bass, hake, cod, and flounder have declined by as much as 96 percent in the North Atlantic. Much to the dismay of the fishery industry, some of the recommendations include a complete ban on catching certain fish species in order to restore fish stocks.
According to the recent statistics, fish consumption has doubled over the past 50 years, from slightly less than 50 million tons in 1971 to 100 million tons in 2020, and is expected to reach 150 million tons by 2030.
As a result of over-fishing and low land-use efficiency, freshwater fish are among the species threatened by extinction too. Twenty percent of these species have either disappeared forever or are seriously endangered. Valuable commercial fish such as the coral-reef wrasse, Patagonian toothfish, Atlantic toothfish, giant shark, and whale shark may also be listed as endangered species.
Over the past 50 years, it is estimated that cod, tuna, sea bass, and sharks – the most valuable species in the oceans, have declined by 90 percent over the past 50 years. In Asia, the biomass of fish in coastal waters is only 8–12 percent of what it was a century ago.
We have to do something fast!
If the global community does not take concerted action, the health of the world’s oceans and the world’s most important fisheries will be irreparably damaged. Merely stopping all uncontrolled commercial fishing is not enough. To mitigate the consequences, we need to be proactive and start stocking activities along with cleaning the World Ocean from tons of garbage and industrial waste. Unfortunately, many of the fish species are irreversibly lost, and the World Ocean’s ecosystem has sustained major damage. Scientists of the world need to collaborate to find innovative ways to repair and revive the species that have not gone extinct yet.