Fishing and fish farming are damaging the ocean’s ecology. More than a third of the fish stocks around the world are being overfished and the problem is particularly acute in developing countries, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a recent report. “While developed countries are improving the way they manage their fisheries, developing countries face a worsening situation,” the FAO said. In 2017, 34.2% of the fish stocks of the world’s marine fisheries were classified as overfished, a “continuous increasing trend” since 1974 when it stood at just 10%.
This is not surprising since worldwide per capita fish consumption set a new record of 20.5 kg (45.2 pounds) per year in 2018. This compares with 9kg (20 pounds) per person in 1961. The scope of this problem can partly gauged by the fact that there are now over four million commercial fishing vessels combing the world’s oceans, depleting fish at a rate that’s considered much faster than is sustainable.
Did you know that at least one third of the fish that are caught in commercial fishing nets are thrown back into the sea, dead or dying? Known as bycatch, this may be because they are a fish species that is not valuable to the fishing industry, but it can also be because they are mammals that just happened to get caught in the nets. Bycatch when fishing for tuna in particular is one of the leading causes of death for dolphins and other cetaceans, and their numbers are in steep decline as a result.
“Between 1950 and 2018, the fishing industry unintentionally caught around 4.1 million dolphins”, says Dr. Putu Liza Mustika, who worked on the study. A research team—led by Dr. Charles Anderson of the Maldivian Manta Marine organization—looked at bycatch rates in the Indian ocean to draw its conclusions.
Fishing and fish farming are destroying the ocean’s ecology. In fact, according to the United Nations Environmental Program, the ocean’s ecological crisis is “greater than anything witnessed on land.” According to the UN, almost 90% of the fisheries are now at either their sustainable limit or beyond.
The scope of this problem can partly gauged by the fact that there are now over four million commercial fishing vessels combing the world’s oceans, depleting fish at a rate that’s considered three times more than is sustainable.