Monday, May 15, 2017 by Bridgette Wilcox
The ominous sight of empty fish nets is becoming all too common as reports show that nearly 90 percent of fisheries all over the world are either overfished or fully-fished; 31.5 percent of fish stocks are fished at a biologically unsustainable level, while 58.1 percent are already fully-fished, said the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Only 10.5 percent of fish stocks are still underfished; a sobering rate considering how many people around the world depend on fish for livelihood as well as a healthy food source. According to FAO, 57 million people around the world are involved in fish production. At the same time, fish makes up 17 percent of the world population’s intake of animal protein, and 6.7 percent of the total protein consumed. It’s also considered a top source for various beneficial vitamins, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, zinc, and iron.
China is seen as a major contributor to the terrifying depletion of fish in the oceans. The country, having exhausted their own resources, has (with the full support of their government) been reported to go further to fish in other countries’ waters, NYTimes.com noted. China has been involved in many maritime disputes; from as near as neighboring Philippines where their towering vessels stand off against local fishing boats to as far away as Argentina where a Chinese vessel was taken down after the local coast guard chased it down for illegal fishing.
Between the county’s massive population, purchasing power, and powerful fleet of almost 2,600 deep-sea fishing vessels, it is becoming an unstoppable force undermining the rest of the world’s sustainable fishing efforts.
China’s aggressive fishing activities are exacerbated by smaller-scale but equally irresponsible fishing practices from countries around the world, leading to a startling decline in fish populations. Earlier this year, scientists from the University of North Carolina found that 90 percent of predatory fish have been wiped out from Caribbean coral reefs due to overfishing. At the same time, researchers from the University of California-San Diego suggests that fishing operations in the Gulf of California are not sustainable on an economical or ecological scale, due to an overcapacity of fishing boats in the area.
Additionally, research published in the journal Science Advances warned that the one-two punch of climate change and commercial fishing could cause marine hotspots to lose many of their species, affecting what is currently considered by scientists to be “exceptional biodiversity”.
In a report on how fisheries impact global food security up to 2050, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) projected that by 2050 — assuming the current effectiveness of fishery management is maintained — global communities may still catch around 112 metric tons of fish. This, however, could destablize the ecosystem, placing risk on stocks of predatory fish. WWF called for a significant improvement in fisheries management, saying this is the only sustainable solution to increase global catch quantities and meet the continuing demand for seafood. Setting limits on total allowable catches, protecting habitats, and conserving stocks of predatory fish are part of effective fishery management, WWF said.
The FAO meanwhile has included marine rehabilitation in its Sustainable Development Goals. As part of its targets, by 2020, it aims to end overfishing, as well as illegal, unreported, unregulated, and destructive fishing practices. Like WWF, the FAO also aims to restore fish stocks through science-based management plans.
Get more news on the state of our oceans on WaterWars.news.