Octopus catcher, Misali, Pemba

Overfishing—taking fish and other sea creatures from the ocean faster than they can reproduce—has caused more change to the world’s oceans than any other single factor so far.  From fish to whales, fishing has depleted many populations of ocean animals.  Some have collapsed to very low numbers.  Some are no longer commercially viable.

“How much can we take? and “How much should we leave?”  Fishery management tries to limit human activities—where, when, and how people can fish, and what they can take.  That’s the idea anyway.  It’s about a century old, but few places have the budgets, personnel, or rule of law to really limit fishing.  Mainly, it hasn’t worked.

The U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and the Falkland Islands are among the few countries where fishery management is generally organized and implemented well enough to prevent depletion or let overfished species recover.

This has led many conservationists to say, if we can’t manage fishing, maybe the best thing we can do is ban fishing in areas large enough to let fish populations recover.  Such marine reserves or no take zones are meant to be a little like factories that can be the production areas for fishing elsewhere.  One estimate asserts that coral reef reserves could boost annual global catch by nearly a billion dollars.

There’s now a large push for such reserves.  Many people see them as the answer to overfishing in many parts of the world.

Check out our  Sustainable Seafood Choices, to see which fish are considered sustainable.  We base the choices on all the elements of good fishery management, science, and human health.


3 things you can do to curb overfishing:

1. Research where seafood comes from in your local stores.
2. Choose seafood that is from a sustainable source.
3. When dining in a restaurant, ask the wait staff or chef about how sustainable the seafood is on their menu.

Other great ways you can make a difference.


Fishery Management — Part 1, Carl Safina
Fishery Management — Part 2, Carl Safina
Fishery Management — Part 3, Carl Safina 
Why is Overfishing a Problem –

What are Catch Shares? – E Magazine

Do Marine Protected Areas Really Work? Oceanus Magazine

Huge Demand for Fish Empties British Waters – Independent
Overfishing – Greenpeace International
Too Few Fish – Oceana Report
Property Rights Approach to Fisheries – Competitive Enterprise Institute
The Tragedy of the Commons – Wikipedia