What is going on with the fisheries industry?

In this entry we would like to tell you a story about the state of the world fisheries. As the demand of all food has grown in the past few decades we extract more fish from the seas and oceans, at a rate higher much higher than is necessary for their regeneration.

The development of technologies has also played a role in advancing the way fishermen’s catch their fish. By using equipment that can catch a higher volume of fish, which is good for profit, leads also to an increased bycatch (fish and animals that we don’t eat, but is caught and thrown away dead into the water). This scale effect serves as a good example that sometimes this is not such a good idea, especially in the long run, which we tend to overlook nowadays.

A recent research carried out by the UN states that by 2048 all of our oceans and seas would be commercially fished out, if the current trends continue. This information struck me, because there is no other resource on our planet that will end as quickly as this one. Even our oil reserves will remain after we will have no more fish to eat. The biggest problem today is the existing legislation. One example of this is the EU Common Fisheries Policy.

The CFP was launched in 1970 by the six founding members, in order to provide a common market for fish. In 1983 Total Allowable Catches(TAC), species quotas and minimum net sizes were introduced, in an attempt to curb over-fishing. As you can probably imagine, the policy has failed to meet its goal. The majority of the top ten species stocks (e.g. anchovies, herring, mackerel, tuna) which account in total for about 30% of the world marine fisheries production in terms of quantity, are fully exploited or overexploited. Because of the rules that were implemented, the need to meet their contractual terms, fishermen overfish the waters. They can’t exceed the TAC and a lot of the fish they catch do not meet the species quotas, i.e. there are of the wrong size or the wrong shape. It has lead me to a horrible statistic: for every kilogram of fish another five are being discarded. This by catch results in the death of animals such as: sharks, sea turtles, birds, dolphins and whales.

It has a huge impact on the marine ecosystem and ironically enough it does not only influence its habitants. The overexploitation of tuna stock in the Mediterranean Sea has already caused an increase in jellyfish population (tuna’s diet item). I have experienced it myself and couldn’t swim in the sea, which I love. Another example is the fact that the decrease in shark population will impact the quantity of mussels and oysters, hence their price growth. There are many other examples of how it can influence our lives or nutritional habits.

Fortunately more and more people are becoming aware of this issue and some issues are being taken care of. As the fishupdate.com states“Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead has called on the European Union to deliver the reforms needed to ensure a viable future for Scotlands fisheries. An additional £1 million funding will be made available over the next two years to help the industry develop more sustainable fishing practices, including development of new fishing gears that can reduce discards and research surveys that can inform fisheries management decisions. The funding will help Scotland tackle discards and take forward innovations to help bridge the transition to a reformed CFP.”

There is still hope for our fish to start increasing their population. The future of the fisheries industry lays in smaller vessels, that overall will hire more people, and take more care in catching the right fish, minimizing the by catch.

Below you can see an interesting video related to this:

The Sushi Story


  1. http://www.fishupdate.com/news/fullstory.php/aid/18349/New_Era_for_fisheries_within_Europe_s_grasp.html
  2. http://www.greenfacts.org/en/fisheries/l-2/03-marine-inland-ressources.htm#0
  3. http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/reform/index_en.htm
by Piotr Wielezynski

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