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Overfishing is a non-sustainable practice of fishing that results in an overall degradation to the ecosystem. Overfishing occurs when fish and other marine species are caught faster than they can reproduce. Not only does this destroy the marine ecosystem, it additionally jeopardizes the food security of more than a billion people. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, “one in five people on this planet depends on fish as the primary source of protein.”
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates over half of the world’s fish stocks are fully exploited: 52 percent are fully exploited, while 20 percent are moderately exploited, and 17 percent are overexploited. A depressing, 7 percent figure highlights fish stocks that are totally depleted, but a hopeful 1 percent is recovering from depletion.
The introduction of new factory boats led to a 7 percent growth in catches every year during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Modern fishing vessels catch staggering amounts of unwanted fish and other marine life. Approximately 8 to 25 percent of the total global catch is discarded and cast overboard (as dead or dying), and 27 million tons of fish are thrown out each year; equivalent to 600, fully-filled Titanics.
90 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. Further statements made by Pavan Sukhdev of the UN Environment Programme weigh in on the startling outcome of continued, overfishing practices: “We are in the situation where 40 years down the line we, effectively, are out of fish.”
Overfishing has pushed the Pacific Bluefin Tuna down a shocking 96.4 percent versus unfished levels. Industrial fishing has reduced the number of large ocean fish to just 10 percent of their pre-industrial population, and an additional 3/4 of the world’s fish stocks are being harvested faster than they can reproduce.
How Can I Help?
According to the Save Our Seas website, “preventing overfishing is fairly straightforward: first and foremost, scientifically-determined limits on the number of fish caught must be established for individual fisheries, and these limits must be enforced. Second, fishing methods responsible for most bycatch must either be modified to make them less harmful, or made illegal. And third, key parts of the ecosystem, such as vulnerable spawning grounds and coral reefs, must be fully protected.”
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