Category Archives: Overfishing

Industrial fishing happening over half of the oceans, say scientists

The world’s most comprehensive analysis of shipping data shows industrial fishing is taking place across more than 55 percent of the oceans, with scientists saying the information could help to conserve stocks and assist local fishermen.

By crunching 22 billion messages sent by vessels’ automatic identification systems (AIS) between 2012 and 2016, researchers identified more than 70,000 ships and could pinpoint, among other things, where and for how long they were fishing.

The researchers, who included members from Google and the National Geographic Society, said the study provided “an unprecedented” ability to better manage the oceans’ resources.

“This new real-time data set will be instrumental in designing improved management of the world’s oceans that is good for the fish, ecosystems and fishermen,” said researcher Chris Costello of the University of California Santa Barbara.

 Overfishing and illegal fishing by commercial vessels inflict significant damage on fisheries and the environment, and take food and jobs from millions of people in coastal communities who rely on fishing, environmental groups have said.

Global demand for fish is increasing, while nearly 90 percent of world stocks are overfished or fully exploited, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The study was recently published in the journal Science, and showed that ships fished less in places where stocks were better managed. Researchers said that meant well-enforced policies could combat over-exploitation.

And while most countries fish inside their own exclusive economic zones, it found just five countries – China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea – account for 85 percent of fishing on the high seas.

Ships with AIS ping their identity and position every few seconds. But because only large vessels must have AIS, and as parts of the ocean are not covered by satellites, researchers said the true extent was likely higher than 55 percent.

Heavily fished areas include the northeast Atlantic, northwest Pacific and areas off South America and West Africa.

The Southern Ocean, parts of the northeast Pacific and central Atlantic oceans, and the exclusive economic zones of many island states, showed much less activity – which could offer the chance to conserve marine life cheaply.

“The world’s oceans are the ultimate common resource,” David Kroodsma, the study’s lead author and a director at Global Fishing Watch, a project focused on fishing resources, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone. “They cover 70 percent of the planet, produce half of the oxygen that we breathe and they’re a major protein source for hundreds of millions of people.”


Industrial fishing happening over half of the oceans, say scientists

By Thin Lei Win, Editing by Robert Carmichael; Credit: the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, resilliance and climate change.

February 23, 2018 


Pacific bluefin population is estimated to have plummeted by 97% from its historic high due to decades of overfishing.

Huge fish sells for 74m yen [$656,000 US, $850,000 CAD] as conservationists call for moratorium to help stabilise plunging Pacific stocks.

A bluefin tuna has fetched 74.2m yen (£517,000) at the first auction of the year at Tsukiji market in Tokyo, amid warnings that decades of overfishing by Japan and other countries is taking the species to the brink of extinction.

The 212kg fish, caught off the coast of Oma in northern Japan, was bought by Kiyomura, the operator of the Sushi Zanmai restaurant chain, after its president, Kiyoshi Kimura, outbid rivals for the sixth year in a row.

. . . Conservationists said the publicity surrounding the auction risked overshadowing the plight of the Pacific bluefin tuna. They have called for a two-year moratorium on fishing to rescue the Pacific bluefin population, which is estimated to have plummeted by 97% from its historic high due to decades of overfishing.

“People should be thinking about that when they see news about the auction,” Jamie Gibbon, officer for global tuna conservation at the Pew Charitable Trusts, told the Guardian.

Last month, 25 tuna-fishing nations plus the European Union agreed on the need for an urgent bluefin tuna recovery plan, but Japan is expected to resist drastic cuts in catch quotas or a moratorium to give stocks the opportunity to recover.

About 70% of Pacific bluefin are less than a year old when caught, according to Gibbon, and 95% are caught before they reach three years old – a practice that damages the species’ ability to reproduce.

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission tightened international limits in 2015 as the species remained under threat, halving the catch of bluefin tuna under 30 kilograms from the average caught between 2002 and 2004.

“If fishing continues at its current rate, then Pacific bluefin stocks will fall to levels that are commercially unsustainable, but Japanese officials continue to say that catch reductions will place too big a burden on fishermen,” Gibbon said. “Short-term profits are being put ahead of long-term conservation.”

About 80% of the global bluefin catch is consumed in Japan, where it is commonly served raw as sashimi and sushi. A piece of otoro – a fatty cut from the fish’s underbelly – can cost several thousand yen at high-end restaurants in Tokyo.

The global popularity of Japanese food is fueling an appetite for bluefin in other countries, including China.


Bluefin tuna sells for £500,000 at Japan auction amid overfishing concerns

Justin McCurry in Tokyo

5 January 2017

Photo courtesty of The Guardian



Global marine fisheries catches have been declining, on average, by 1.2 million metric tons every year since 1996 and FAO knew very little about this.

Fortunately, the Global Atlas of Marine Fisheries has just been released and it explains, in detail and country-by-country, the reasons behind this unprecedented phenomenon, its consequences when it comes to food security and the steps that can be taken to ease the dire situation.

The 520-page book, published by Island Press, is the product of a 10-year research effort led by two renowned scientists from the Sea Around Us project at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries: Dr. Daniel Pauly and Dr. Dirk Zeller, who were backed by close to 400 researchers from 273 countries.

Why wasn’t this issue reported before? Because for the past 50 years, member countries have been giving FAO misleading information regarding their fishery data. Thus, while the UN agency officially divulged a peak in global catches of 86 million metric tons by 1996, the real figure the UBC experts unearthed was of 130 million metric tons. Following that spike, numbers have been in sharp decline.

Countries’ inaccurate information is the result of unaccounted catches, such as those originating from recreational, artisanal, and illegal fishing, as well as from discarded bycatch.

One of the three chapters on Canada included in the Atlas reveals that Arctic catches, for example, are entirely missing from official reports. “These are almost exclusively subsistence for the local people,” Zeller explains. “So, what Canada is telling the world community is that no one is eating fish up there in the Arctic, which is simply wrong.”

The Atlas also shows the impact of discards in Canada’s fisheries data. “The northwest Atlantic was the area with the largest discards worldwide in the 1960s and 1970s,” Zeller says. The reasons for discarding were mostly getting ‘non-marketable animals’ and high grading, a ‘fish the best and leave the rest,’ -kind of practice.

Catches everywhere have been bountiful up until now, the Global Atlas of Marine Fisheries states. But the decline in volumes reveals that fish stocks are in danger. And climate change is only making things worse.




November 3, 2016


Study finds only 1/3 of 5,000 fisheries assessed were fished at level allowing for recovery

A marine research ecologist at Dalhousie University says a new study is further proof we need to change the way we manage fisheries around the world.

“If you fish these stocks the exact same way you’re fishing them now and you keep that up, then indeed we will face in 30 years or so a world where according to this study almost 90 percent of stocks are depleted,” Boris Worm told CBC’s Mainstreet.

The study, published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows while there are improvements in some areas of the world, the average state of fish stocks is poor and declining. Worm wrote a commentary on the study that will be published next month.

Of close to 5,000 fisheries assessed, only one third remained at a biomass target that supports maximum productivity. Two thirds have slipped below that threshold.

Even more concerning, Worm says, is the finding that only one third of stocks are currently fished at a level that would allow for recovery.



By Bob Murphy, CBC NewsApr 05, 2016

Feature image: Photo credit Samsul Said/Rueters


Countries drastically underreport the number of fish caught worldwide, and the numbers obscure a significant decline in the total catch .

The new estimate, released today in Nature Communications, puts the annual global catch at roughly 109 million metric tons, about 30 per cent higher than the 77 million officially reported in 2010 by more than 200 countries and territories. This means that 32 million metric tons of fish goes unreported every year, more than the weight of the entire population of the United States.

Researchers led by the Sea Around Us, a research initiative at the University of British Columbia supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts, and Vulcan Inc., attribute the discrepancy to the fact that most countries focus their data collection efforts on industrial fishing and largely exclude difficult-to-track categories such as artisanal, subsistence, and illegal fishing, as well as discarded fish.

“The world is withdrawing from a joint bank account of fish without knowing what has been withdrawn or the remaining balance,” said UBC professor Daniel Pauly, a lead author of the study and principal investigator of the Sea Around Us. “Better estimating the amount we’re taking out can help ensure there is enough fish to sustain us in the future.”




A copy of the paper is available at: