ALL FISHED OUT - A recent United Nations study reported that more than two-thirds of the world's fisheries have collapsed or are currently being over fished. Much of the remaining one third is in a state of decline due to habitat degradation from pollution and climate change. Escalating amounts of point and non-point pollution continue to threaten water quality and fish habitat. Yet, the human population consumes over 100 million metric tons of fish annually and more than 25% of the world’s dietary protein is provided by fish.





A case study by the European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products (EUMOFA) found that most European markets for Atlantic cod are built on a strong dependency on imports as the main suppliers are extra-EU countries (Norway, Russia and Iceland). Statistically, Denmark appears as the largest European trader for fresh Atlantic cod. But Denmark is a ‘hub’ for Norwegian fish. Generally speaking the UK is dependent on international sources for seafood supply. Cod and haddock are the key whitefish species for the UK market. Iceland represents a key source of supply for both cod and haddock into the UK. In 2015, UK imported 108,000 tonnes of cod and exported 12,460 tonnes.





Regarding the price structure in the supply chain for the fresh cod fillet: the filleting is a key step of the process as filleting losses are estimated to account for 45% from the whole fresh cod (gutted, head-on). The ex-factory price is estimated at 47% of the retail price without VAT. The main costs are: processing, packaging, ice, labelling, transport and processor’s margin. 50% of the retail price (including VAT) is the retailer costs and margin.

The EU market for cod is supplied almost exclusively with wild fish. Aquaculture provides only 3,310 tonnes, coming mainly from Norway which production fell sharply in 2012 (-53%). Cod farming has been severely reduced since 2010 and the aquaculture for this species proved to be unprofitable due to the availability of wild fish at fair prices. The only EU cod farming company, based in the UK, went bankrupt if 2008.





Millions of fisher men and women take to the oceans each day to feed local communities and a growing global appetite for seafood. Their catch and livelihoods are part of a $190 billion global seafood industry. In all, seafood now makes up 12-20% percent of the animal protein we consume and that demand is expected to double in the next two-decades. The challenge we now face is how to sustainably produce enough fish to meet this demand while maintaining healthy oceans with sharks, whales, turtles and other important marine life.


Several decades of overfishing in most of the world's major fisheries has created large declines in many commercially important fish populations across the world. Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, today is recognized as a major threat to achieving sustainable fisheries.


By regulating the fish taken from any geographical fishery, we are actually doing the fishermen a good turn, because we are ensuring that there will be fish next year and the year after that for them to fish. This is what sustainability is all about.







All of us can help protect and restore communities’ livelihoods, the health of fish and fisheries, and the health of coral reefs with three simple precautions:


1. By knowing where our fish and seafood come from,


2. By knowing how the fish are caught, and


3. By knowing how healthy those fish are.


Only by knowing what we are eating, where it has come and how it was caught (EG by a local fisherman using a small boat) from can we decide whether to continue eating away tomorrow’s fish. If the fish on the shelf is suspect in origin or not labeled in terms of responsible fishing we can make a decision that will have a long-lasting impact on the natural environment, as well as the quality of life for people who depend on these resources - we can decide not to purchase and we can report our suspicions to the authorities.







Supermarkets have got a lot to answer for in terms of sustainable practices. Ultimately, they are responsible for packaging where their business model dictates to a large extent, how and in what goods are delivered and displayed. Much of the single use plastic goes through a supermarket, because that is where most people shop for their food.





Generally, a fishery is an entity engaged in raising or harvesting fish which is determined by a local or national authority to be a fishery.


According to the FAO, a fishery is typically defined in terms of the "people involved, species or type of fish, area of water or seabed, method of fishing, class of boats, purpose of the activities or a combination of the foregoing features". The definition often includes a combination of fish and fishers in a region, the latter fishing for similar species with similar gear types.

A fishery may involve the capture of wild fish or raising fish through fish farming or aquaculture. Directly or indirectly, the livelihood of over 500 million people in developing countries depends on fisheries and aquaculture. Overfishing, including the taking of fish beyond sustainable levels, is reducing fish stocks and employment in many world regions. A report by Prince Charles' International Sustainability Unit, the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund and 50in10 published in July 2014 estimated global fisheries were adding $270 billion a year to global GDP, but by full implementation of sustainable fishing, that figure could rise by as much as $50 billion.







Fisheries are harvested for their value (commercial, recreational or subsistence). They can be saltwater or freshwater, wild or farmed. Examples are the salmon fishery of Alaska, the cod fishery off the Lofoten islands, the tuna fishery of the Eastern Pacific, or the shrimp farm fisheries in China. Capture fisheries can be broadly classified as industrial scale, small-scale or artisanal, and recreational.

Close to 90% of the world’s fishery catches come from oceans and seas, as opposed to inland waters. These marine catches have remained relatively stable since the mid-nineties (between 80 and 86 million tonnes). Most marine fisheries are based near the coast. This is not only because harvesting from relatively shallow waters is easier than in the open ocean, but also because fish are much more abundant near the coastal shelf, due to the abundance of nutrients available there from coastal upwelling and land runoff. However, productive wild fisheries also exist in open oceans, particularly by seamounts, and inland in lakes and rivers.

Most fisheries are wild fisheries, but farmed fisheries are increasing. Farming can occur in coastal areas, such as with oyster farms, but more typically occur inland, in lakes, ponds, tanks and other enclosures.

There are species fisheries worldwide for finfish, mollusks, crustaceans and echinoderms, and by extension, aquatic plants such as kelp. However, a very small number of species support the majority of the world’s fisheries. Some of these species are herring, cod, anchovy, tuna, flounder, mullet, squid, shrimp, salmon, crab, lobster, oyster and scallops. All except these last four provided a worldwide catch of well over a million tonnes in 1999, with herring and sardines together providing a harvest of over 22 million metric tons in 1999. Many other species are harvested in smaller numbers.





EU EZZ - The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is the fisheries policy of the European Union (EU). It sets quotas for which member states are allowed to catch each type of fish, as well as encouraging the fishing industry by various market interventions. In 2004 it had a budget of €931 million, approximately 0.75% of the EU budget.

When it came into force, the Treaty of Lisbon formally enshrined fisheries conservation policy as one of the handful of "exclusive competences" reserved for the European Union, to be decided by Qualified Majority Voting. However, general fisheries policy remains a "shared competence" of the Union and its member states. Thus decisions are still made primarily by the Council of the European Union, as was the case previously.

The common fisheries policy was created to manage fish stock for the European Union as a whole. Article 38 of the 1957 Treaty of Rome, which created the European Communities (now European Union), stated that there should be a common policy for fisheries.

The EU's exclusive economic zone EEZ is the largest in the world at 25 million square kilometres in area. The EU's fishing fleet numbers 88,000 – the second largest in the world – and can fish freely across the European Union, catching nearly six million metric tonnes a year.




Fishing is a relatively unimportant economic activity within the EU. It contributes generally less than 1% to gross national product. In 2007 the fisheries sector employed 141,110 fishermen. In 2007, 6.4 million tonnes of fish were caught by EU countries. The EU fleet has 97,000 vessels of varying sizes. Fish farming produced a further 1 million tonnes of fish and shellfish and employed another 85,000 people. The shortfall between fish catches and demand varies, but there is an EU trade deficit in processed fish products of €3 billion.

The combined EU fishing fleets land about 6 million tonnes of fish per year, of which about 3 million tonnes are from UK waters. The UK’s share of the overall EU fishing catch is only 750,000 tonnes. This proportion is determined by the London Fisheries Convention of 1964 and by the EU's Common Fisheries Policy.

In Fraserburgh, Scotland, the fishing industry creates 40% of employment and a similar figure in Peterhead. They are the EU's largest fishing ports and home to the pelagic vessel fleet. Fishing fleets are often in areas where other employment opportunities are limited. For this reason, community funds have been made available to fishing as a means of encouraging regional development.

The market for fish and fish products has changed in recent years. Supermarkets are now the main buyers of fish and they expect steady supplies from their suppliers. Fresh fish sales have fallen, but demand for processed fish and prepared meals has grown. Despite this, employment in fish processing has been falling, with 60% of fish consumed in the EU coming from elsewhere. This is partly due to improvements in the ability to transport fresh fish internationally. Competitiveness of the EU fishing industry has been affected by the overcapacity of boats and shortages of fish to catch.




DWINDLING FISH STOCKS - Food security is a major problem the world will have to face as the available land for to grow crops reduces in competition with land for housing, as the population expands. The situation is far from sustainable and a bubble that will burst. When the bubble bursts it will cause the deaths of millions of people, where additional farming will create more carbon dioxide to heat the climate, making more land barren in a vicious circle that we must take steps to prevent happening.


Around 10% of the world (700,000,000 million people) rely on the ocean for food, but in addition to our poor land management record, we are also polluting the seven seas with plastic that is toxic - so reducing the number of fish that we might harvest for food. Aquaculture, is seen as the savior for fish supply, but fish farming is dependent on ocean and land derived feeds, hence is more of an icing quick fix than a really tasty cake. 





For any government agency that needs to track more than just the larger commercial ships in its waters, AIS and VMS mandates do not address the huge population of smaller vessels of interest. This leaves the vast majority of boats in their waters as ‘dark targets’, ultimately spreading an agency’s resources too thinly to monitor all of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).




NOAA - Fisheries tracks 473 fish stocks managed by 46 fishery management plans. We have rebuilt 40 stocks since 2000 as a result of our fishery management process. Overfishing and overfished numbers remained near all-time lows in 2015.




Most fish companies maximize what they pull from the sea with little concern for the methods used to snare their haul. As a result, a shockingly large percentage of the world’s fisheries are now in decline. With worldwide demand for seafood expected to double in the next two decades, it’s doubtful these companies will take their foot off the gas, though that might not be in their best interest. A recent global survey in Science has estimated that we could see seafood vanish altogether by 2048. Now, the future of the fish industry is looking increasingly vulnerable. This leads one to ponder many important questions, like ‘can companies produce their product more sustainably and feed a growing population without depleting our oceans? Is there, in fact, such a thing as sustainable seafood?’ In order to flesh this out further, I’ve listed a few important truth-cakes to chew on in order comprehend just how big of a net we’ve gotten ourselves caught in.

1. Two-thirds of the worlds fish are overfished and depleted: 4,714 fisheries were assessed in 2012 (UN Food and Agricultural Organization, 2015), and 32% were at or above the biomass (total mass of fish left in the water) that supports a maximum sustainable yield. Only a third of fisheries overall are fished at levels that allow fish to repopulate. Our choices in the coming years will determine if the majority of fisheries will rebuild or collapse. This is also quite concerning for the 40% of the global population that relies on fish for their food.

2. Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing (in other words, poaching) is estimated to account for 20-30% of the global catch: ‘We are flying blind,’ according to Mark Zimring at The Nature Conservancy. He states we don’t have the data and compliance to build solid policies that can address this problem adequately. Many fisheries in the world are not routinely assessed at all so there could be even more fisheries facing strong declines and we may not even know it. The Nature Conservancy's electronic monitoring project (GPS, sensors, tracking devices, video cameras on boats, etc) aims to improve their data to get a better understanding of how poaching can be solved. These efforts can also help with product traceability, not to mention addressing the slave labor problems found across the industry.

3. 10% of fish caught in oceans get dumped back in: It’s startling to think that billions of fish are killed each year without reaching the dinner table. It’s abundantly clear that many of the fishing methods we use have a massive impact on the ocean. There’s also the issue with bycatch (sharks, dolphins, turtles, whales) and faulty gear. Some of the discarded fish is deemed low valued fish, or too diseased to keep.

4. It has been estimated that between 0.97 to 2.7 trillion fish are caught from the wild and killed globally every year: This doesn’t include the billions of fish that are farmed. Fish account for approximately 40% of animal products consumed. (39% vs 26% pigs vs 20% chickens vs 14% cows) These numbers don’t include sports fishing. ‘We now have a fifth more of global fish stocks at worrying levels than we did in 2000. The global environmental impact of overfishing is incalculable and the knock-on impact on coastal economies is simply too great for this to be swept under the rug anymore.'- Lasse Gustavssin, the director of Oceana.

5. Fish farming is forecasted to overtake wild-caught fish production for the first time in 2021: Fish farming is taking the seafood industry by storm. For context, farmed fish accounts for 70% of all farmed animals worldwide. This presents a host of problems. For example, shrimp farming has led to the destruction of three million acres of coastal wetlands. Some sustainability minded groups fear that fish farming might activate invasive species and disease. The potential for chemical pollution is causing concern as well. For example, there have been reports on high pollution levels from chemicals used to kill lice found in salmon farms. There's no doubt about it, the impact of farmed fish will be substantial.

‘We now have a fifth more of global fish stocks at worrying levels than we did in 2000. The global environmental impact of overfishing is incalculable and the knock-on impact on coastal economies is simply too great for this to be swept under the rug anymore.’ - Lasse Gustavssin, the director of Oceana.




WILD SALMON - Salmon spawn in a salmon fishery within the Becharof Wilderness in Southwest Alaska.




Eat Differently. The great thing about the free market is that companies will respond to consumer demand. By changing our eating habits, we can start to move the needle in the right direction. The way I see it, we have three options to put a serious dent in the problem we’re facing:

1) Eat more sustainably. For example, go for oysters, clams, mussels, or scallops instead of tuna, salmon, or shrimp. This way, there’s little to no bycatch, and it has the added benefit of reducing suffering, as bi-valves likely don’t feel pain due to their lack of central nervous system.

2) Reduce the amount of fish we consume (reducetarian diet). Simply buying less fish or ordering it less often could go a long way in reducing the amount of fish we take out of the ocean.

3) Make the switch to plant-based fish products that sidestep seafood altogether. Not only will this be the best option for our oceans, but you can also avoid the many heavy metals (mercury, etc) frequently found in fish by going this route.


Contributor: Michael Pellman Rowland






In 1968 an American ecologist, Garrett Hardin, published an article entitled “The Tragedy of the Commons”. He argued that when a resource is held jointly, it is in individuals’ self-interest to deplete it, so people will tend to undermine their collective long-term interest by over-exploiting rather than protecting that asset. Such a tragedy is now unfolding, causing serious damage to a resource that covers almost half the surface of the Earth.

The high seas - the bit of the oceans that lies beyond coastal states’ 200-mile exclusive economic zones—are a commons. Fishing there is open to all. Countries have declared minerals on the seabed “the common heritage of mankind”. The high seas are of great economic importance to everyone—fish is a more important source of protein than beef—and getting more so. The number of patents using DNA from sea-creatures is rocketing, and one study suggests that marine life is a hundred times more likely to contain material useful for anti-cancer drugs than is terrestrial life.

Yet the state of the high seas is deteriorating (see article). Arctic ice now melts away in summer. Dead zones are spreading. Two-thirds of the fish stocks in the high seas are over-exploited, even more than in the parts of the oceans under national control. And strange things are happening at a microbiological level. The oceans produce half the planet’s supply of oxygen, mostly thanks to chlorophyll in aquatic algae. Concentrations of that chlorophyll are falling. That does not mean life will suffocate. But it could further damage the climate, since less oxygen means more carbon dioxide.

For tragedies of the commons to be averted, rules and institutions are needed to balance the short-term interests of individuals against the long-term interests of all users. That is why the dysfunctional policies and institutions governing the high seas need radical reform.




OCEAN  - The EU rules to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) depletes fish stocks, destroys marine habitats, distorts competition, puts honest fishers at an unfair disadvantage, and weakens costal communities, particularly in developing countries.
The EU is working to close the loopholes that allow illegal operators to profit from their activities:

* The EU Regulation to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) entered into force on 1 January 2010. The Commission is working actively with all stakeholders to ensure coherent application of the IUU Regulation.

* Only marine fisheries products validated as legal by the competent flag state or exporting state can be imported to or exported from the EU.

* An IUU vessel list is issued regularly, based on IUU vessels identified by Regional Fisheries Management Organisations.

* The IUU Regulation can take steps against statesSearch for available translations of the preceding link••• that turn a blind eye to illegal fishing activities: first it issues a warning, then it can identify and black list them for not fighting IUU fishing.

* EU operators who fish illegally anywhere in the world, under any flag, face substantial penalties proportionate to the economic value of their catch, which deprive them of any profit.




The first target should be fishing subsidies. Fishermen, who often occupy an important place in a country’s self-image, have succeeded in persuading governments to spend other people’s money subsidising an industry that loses billions and does huge environmental damage. Rich nations hand the people who are depleting the high seas $35 billion a year in cheap fuel, insurance and so on. The sum is over a third of the value of the catch. That should stop.

Second, there should be a global register of fishing vessels. These have long been exempt from an international scheme that requires passenger and cargo ships to carry a unique ID number. Last December maritime nations lifted the exemption—a good first step. But it is still up to individual countries to require fishing boats flying their flag to sign up to the ID scheme. Governments should make it mandatory, creating a global record of vessels to help crack down on illegal high-seas fishing. Somalis are not the only pirates out there.

Third, there should be more marine reserves. An eighth of the Earth’s land mass enjoys a measure of legal protection (such as national-park status). Less than 1% of the high seas does. Over the past few years countries have started to set up protected marine areas in their own economic zones. Bodies that regulate fishing in the high seas should copy the idea, giving some space for fish stocks and the environment to recover.

But reforming specific policies will not be enough. Countries also need to improve the system of governance. There is a basic law of the sea signed by most nations (though not America, to its discredit). But it contains no mechanisms to enforce its provisions. Instead, dozens of bodies have sprung up to regulate particular activities, such as shipping, fishing and mining, or specific parts of the oceans. The mandates overlap and conflict. Non-members break the rules with impunity. And no one looks after the oceans as a whole.

A World Oceans Organisation should be set up within the UN. After all, if the UN cannot promote collective self-interest over the individual interests of its members, what is it good for? Such an organisation would have the job of streamlining the impenetrable institutional tangle. But it took 30 years to negotiate the law of the sea. A global oceans body would probably take longer - and the oceans need help now.

So in the meantime the law of the sea should be beefed up. It is a fine achievement, without which the oceans would be in an even worse state. But it was negotiated in the 1970s before the rise of environmental concerns, so contains little on biodiversity. And the regional fishing bodies, currently dominated by fishing interests, should be opened up to scientists and charities. As it is, the sharks are in charge of the fish farm.

This would not solve all the problems of the oceans. Two of the biggest - acidification and pollution - emanate from the land. Much of the damage is done within the 200-mile limit. But institutional reform for the high seas could cut overfishing and, crucially, change attitudes. The high seas are so vast and distant that people behave as though they cannot be protected or do not need protection. Neither is true. Humanity has harmed the high seas, but it can reverse that damage. Unless it does so, there will be trouble brewing beneath the waves.







SeaVax blue growth ocean cleaning technology


OCEAN CONDITIONER - The fishing industry stands to benefit the most from ocean conditioning and healthier oceans. SeaVax is designed to operate in fleets to target sea-bourne waste before it settles on the ocean floor where nobody can recover it. There is nothing like it in existence today, though thankfully, other ideas for trapping plastic waste are being developed in tandem, such as that of Boyan Slat and the Seabin.






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