Roughly one-third of assessed fish populations are over-fished and over half are fully-fished.
The View From Below
From above, it may seem that there are plenty of fish in the sea, but dive beneath the surface and it's a different story. Overfishing, lack of effective management, and our own consumption habits are just a few factors contributing to a decline in wild fish populations. Evidence of these problems abounds.
In just the past decade, Atlantic populations of halibut and yellowtail flounder joined this list of species at all-time lows. The cod fishery, once a backbone of the North Atlantic economy, collapsed completely in the early 1990s and has shown little evidence of recovery two decades later. The breeding population of Pacific bluefin tuna is now at only four percent of its original size and decline will continue without significant, immediate management changes.
Other harmful effects of fishing—some of which are preventable with modifications to gear—also impact the ocean, including the accidental catch of unwanted species (bycatch) and habitat damage from fishing gear.
What You Can Do
By asking this simple but important question at your grocery store or restaurant, you can help shape the demand for, and ultimately supply of, fish that's been caught or farmed in environmentally sustainable ways. Consumers play an important role in shaping ocean health, so start making a difference today!
How Did We Get Here?
One reason is the advent of industrial-scale fishing, which began in the late 1800s and has been accompanied by significant declines in the size and abundance of fish. By the mid-1990s, these fishing practices made it impossible for natural fish stocks to keep up. Ninety percent of the world's fisheries are now fully exploited, over-exploited or have collapsed.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind?
Because the ocean seems so vast and its resources limitless, these threats are often "out of sight, out of mind," but overfishing issues are not just for future generations to bear; they're very real problems threatening our current seafood supply and the health of our ocean. The good news is that there is much we can do—if we act now.