Today, 53 per cent of the world’s fish stocks has been fully depleted, and 32 per cent is overfished, falling or in the recovery phase. Many fish stocks are approaching collapse due to overfishing.
Today the global fishing fleet has the capacity to fish 2.5 times more resources than the sea can provide. Therefore, each year significantly more fish are caught than is sustainable. The result is a significant crash in the world’s fish stocks. Part of the reason for overfishing is that technological development has made large-scale fishing easier. In addition, subsidies contribute towards keeping a greater number of larger boats at sea.
Destructive fishing methods such as dynamite, ghost fishing (fishing equipment that continues to catch fish after it has been lost from a fishing vessel), incorrect use of nets, and bottom trawling in vulnerable regions are additional challenges. The poor or complete lack of fishery management systems, and fishing quotas that are set higher than researchers recommend, pile on top of everything else.
Modern fishing equipment is hugely effective at catching fish. Unfortunately, in the process it also often catches other unwanted species such as whales, dolphins, seals, seabirds, sharks and other fish. These other animals are what we call by-catch, and they are often thrown back into the sea, injured, dying or already dead. Every year millions of tonnes of marine life are caught as by-catch in this way, and this is causing dramatic falls in many fish stocks. By-catch is a senseless problem both for the ecosystem and for the fishermen. Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing costs global society up to 23 billion dollars a year, at the same time as weak local or regional management threatens the marine resource base, undermines public administrations and encourages corruption. The main challenge in many places is the lack of resources to stop illegal fishing and to introduce sustainable management.
What can be done?
It is vital to cooperate with fishermen, fisheries managers, governments, fish buyers, fish sellers and consumers to consider and adopt more selective fishing methods. There is a great need to strengthen the management of fisheries around the world, to have observers on fishing vessels to document by-catch and to learn more about where, how and why by-catch occurs. In addition, fish buyers and consumers are encouraged and advised to choose fish from sustainable fisheries with minimal by-catch.
REV - Prioritized areas for research and innovation:
- Develop new fishing equipment that can effectively select between target species and by-catch species.
- Build new fishing equipment for bottom trawling that does not destroy flora and fauna on the ocean floor.
- Develop new fishing technology that ensures that species that are caught as by-catch survive when they are released back into the ocean.
- Create multi-stock models for use in fisheries management that include the interaction between different species and stocks, both commercial and non-commercial, and between species and their habitats.
- Develop new fisheries technology to simplify the real-time surveillance of species and stocks.
- Create environmentally sound methods for detailed mapping of the water column and seafloor, particularly for use on ships that are in transit (between harbours)