What is the condition of the world’s fisheries in 2018?

In July 2007 the NGO Oceana wrote and published a report State of the World’s Fisheries, subtitled What Will Be the Future of the Oceans?  We bring readers attention back to this Ocean report because we are now 10 years on since its first publication.  The question we ask is, have things changed?

The Oceana report observed:

The oceans contain a vast diversity of life, from the smallest micro-organisms to the largest mammals on earth, blue whales. The oceans provide food, medicine, energy and serve as a recreational resource, but they are not as once commonly believed, an inexhaustible resource.

Global overfishing and other unsustainable fishing practices have depleted nearly all commercial fish populations and degraded the ecosystems that support them. Since the late 1980s global fish catches have actually declined, despite significant increases in fishing effort and improvements in technology.

The information in this document is adapted from The State of the World’s Fisheries, a briefing given on 24th May, 2007 at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland by Andrew Sharpless, Chief Executive Officer of Oceana and Dr. Rashid Sumaila, Director of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit at the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre. Based on comments and feedback from this event, this document also contains new recommendations on how resource sustainability can be effectively addressed in a WTO fisheries subsidies agreement.

In May 2007, a group of 125 scientists from 27 countries issued a warning to the world about the perils of global overfishing and the need to act:

Climate change and pollution continue to have huge impacts on the health of our oceans, but global overfishing directly threatens the immediate viability of the world’s fisheries and the billions of people who depend on the bounty of the seas. Eliminating destructive fishing subsidies, strengthening management regimes, and controlling illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing are some of the key actions that need to be taken to restore the ocean’s biodiversitybiodiversity Biological diversity in an environment as indicated by numbers of different species of plants and animals. and productivity.

Alarmingly, the once unthinkable possibility that there will be no fish is quickly becoming a real threat.

We need to avert disaster now. While life depends in large part on the health of the oceans, the health of the oceans depends on us.

What Will Be Left in the Sea?

The world’s fisheries are facing an unprecedented crisis. Fisheries are already severely depleted or in sharp decline in nearly every part of the world.

• A new study by an international team of scientists found that 29 percent of the world’s fish species are currently in collapse. A species is considered to be in collapse when its catch falls below 10 percent of the recorded maximum. Most alarming, the study projects that all major commercial fisheries will collapse within the next 50 years if current trends are not reversed.

• According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), more than 75 percent of the world commercial fish populations are depleted, recovering, fully exploited, or overexploited. Of the top ten species that account for about 30 percent of the world capture fisheries production in terms of quantity, seven are fully exploited or overexploited and cannot be expected to produce major increases in catches. This includes the anchoveta in the Southeast Pacific; the Alaska Pollock in the North Pacific; the blue whiting in the Northeast Atlantic; and the Atlantic herring.

There is no longer any question — we have reached a critical state. The world’s ocean ecosystems are at a tipping point, and overfishing represents one of the greatest threats to their productivity… There are only decades left before the damage we have inflicted on the oceans becomes permanent. We are at a crossroads. One road leads to a world with tremendously diminished marine life. The other leads to one with oceans again teeming with abundance, where the world can rely on the oceans for protein, and enjoy its wildlife. The choices we make today will determine our path for the future.


Source: Oceana, July 2007.  To read the full report, see https://oceana.org/sites/default/files/reports/SOWF_FINAL_July071.pdf


Marinet observes:  If any reader can inform Marinet that in the 10 years since this Oceana report was published the stocks of fish in the world’s oceans have improved, then please contact us.  We will publish the evidence.

We suspect that there is no evidence and that the decline in the world’s fish stocks (and, as a consequence, also the overall well-being of the ocean ecosystem) has intensified.

This is a very serious situation which world governance of the fishing industry and related human use of the ocean has failed to address.  It is gravely imperilling mankind’s marine food security.

There is a way forward.  This is outlined in Marinet’s proposals for reforming the governance of human uses of the ocean written by Marinet member, Deborah Wright, Conserving The Great Blue : Overturning The Dominant Ocean Paradigm.  If you believe you can assist or see a way to bring this new marine world order into play, please contact Marinet.


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