- 93% of fish stocks are maximally fished or overfished (FAO). This means that most fish populations on Earth are exploited or are at the risk of being overexploited yet the demand for seafood is increasing. From 1990 to 2018, there was a 122% increase in total food fish consumption with fish production reaching 179 million tonnes in 2018 (FAO), while the global human population continues to rise.
- Over a third of fish and seafood products are lost or discarded from this wasteful global industry (FAO), which is commonly referred to as by-catch. Globally in 2018, annual discards of fisheries bycatch was estimated to be 10.5 million tons.
Did You Know?
Shrimp trawlers can catch as much to 15 times more bycatch than shrimp. Bycatch is the accidental capture of non-target species, including sharks, dolphins, turtles and seabirds. These animals may be attracted to the same bait used to target the fish, drawn to the fish themselves, entangled in non-selective fishing gear, or in the wrong place at the wrong time, and get hauled in with the rest of the catch. Often, this bycatch is then thrown back overboard (after causing many casualties) because it doesn’t have market value. The wasted energy, time, and resources used to catch and discard bycatch costs the industry as much as $1 billion annually (Oceana).
- Ecosystem imbalance: Due to the delicate balance of the ocean’s ecosystems, the slightest imbalance has a magnified effect on all life forms existing there.
- When a system is overfished, the large fish are the first to ‘go’. Fish that are large in size, long-lived and are slow to reproduce are among the most vulnerable to overfishing since these traits make it hard to rapidly recover from fishing pressures. Unfortunately, this includes popular, common species such as Cod, Chilean Sea Bass & Pacific Snapper.
- When there is no longer a sufficient amount of larger fish to harvest, smaller, less desirable species are targeted, like sardines and squid. This is a phenomenon that is known as “fishing down the food web”. This is problematic as these low-level species are often important sustenance for other members of the food web, with their disappearance affecting the web as a whole.
- As other types of fish are incrementally overfished, the larger dynamics of the ocean ecosystem is forced to change & adapt, not always in a positive manner.
Did You Know?
55% of the world’s coral reefs are affected by overfishing. In a delicate ecosystem such as a coral reef, many fish coexist by eating algae growing on the coral, keeping it healthy. Where these species are overfished, the algae overgrow, suffocating the corals and affecting other species in a negative manner.
Did You Know?
A critical and shocking concern in our global seafood industry is Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing which makes up 30% of fishing.
- IUU fishing and the broader corruption of the industry leads to the mislabelling of fish and lack of traceability. A Guardian Seascape study found that up to 40% of fish sold are mislabelled. For example, 94% of the fish sold in New York under the name “tuna” are actually completely different fish! (NY Times) On the other hand, critically endangered species like sharks and dolphins have been sold under false names.
- A famous example is the Antarctic Toothfish, which is often sold under the alias “Chilean Sea Bass” as the documentary The Last Ocean reveals in detail.
- Mislabelling of animal products spans across all industries. For example, illegal shark products are even used in clandestine ways under hidden names in the cosmetics and beauty industry. Learn more about the unexpected products that contain and continue to threaten the survival of sharks at Sharkwater Extinction.