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Overfishing: Soon we will face empty seas

Fisheries plunder the world's oceans. Their wealth seemed inexhaustible for a long time - an illusion, because fish is not available in unlimited quantities. Global overfishing is now recognized as one of the greatest threats to the health of the seas and the survival of its inhabitants. Already today we should conserve four fifths of all fish stocks instead of continuing to fish them intensively and at the limit of their capacity.

Apply worldwide 33 percent of commercially used fish stocks are considered overexploited and 60 percent used as maximum (As of July 2018). The situation is particularly dire in European waters: In the Mediterranean and Black Sea, as many as 62.2 percent of the stocks are classified as overfished. However, there is a lack of data for many fish stocks - ultimately, science can only describe the status of 35 percent of the stocks examined.

Fishing is changing the ecosystem

In the sea, fish play a central role in the food web of other fish and marine mammals. The fishing often removes certain species in too large quantities and changed thereby the natural composition and the dynamics of the food web. The large fish species, which are heavily decimated by fishing, are usually particularly popular. When their catch is finally no longer worthwhile, other fish are targeted - for example those species that were previously the prey for the big fish. This phenomenon is described as "Fishing down the food web": The size of the target fish is steadily decreasing. Excessive fishing can damage the food webs and thus the change the existing equilibrium in the ecosystem

Scientific recommendations are ignored

The large fishing fleets, which are technically well equipped and aiming for quick profit, empty the seas. In European waters that determines European Union (EU) under its Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), such as a lot of fish taken from their waters in a year may be. It is actually advised by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). However, the catch amounts set at the end are often significantly higher: The politically set catch quotas have very often exceeded the scientific recommendations in recent years. This is then legal, but by no means sustainable. And that's just a result of short-sighted and unsustainable policies.

Fair conditions for fish and fishermen are necessary

Both the Fish and fishermen both deserve long-term prospects. This should be implemented for individual fish stocks within fisheries management in Europe in so-called multi-annual plans. The WWF also demands that the entire ecosystem be considered and that the recommendations of the scientists are followed.

What applies to Europe must apply even more to the activities of the EU in other countries. People in developing countries in particular depend on being able to catch enough fish in the future. Fair fishing agreements with third countries must promote environmentally sound and sustainable fishing and the Protect the rights and needs of local fishermen

WWF calls for a global agreement to end harmful fishing subsidies

After almost two decades of negotiations within the World Trade Organization (WTO), it is high time to finally act: In 2021, the WTO members want to conclude a global agreement to end harmful fishing subsidies.

Subsidies are a major driver of overfishing. You lead to Overcapacity in the fishing fleet and reduce operating costs to such an extent that even unprofitable fishing activities can be continued. In addition, even fishing boats and operators receive the illegal, unreported or unregulated (IUU) fishing continue to be involved government funding

Governments provide an estimated $ 22 billion each year for harmful subsidies ready to increase the fishing capacity. The Industrialized countries stand out as fisheries subsidizers, with Japan, China, the EU and the US providing the largest overall budgets. The victims of this subsidy policy are not only the oceans, but often also the poorest countries and people in the global south. In this way they are cheated of access, distribution and market fairness.

Marine fishing directly and indirectly employs around 200 million people worldwide. In the developing and emerging countries these are mostly small-scale fishermen, who are particularly affected by the Vicious circle of subsidized overfishing Suffer. Economic development in the coastal regions requires healthy fish stocks. Governments should therefore end harmful subsidies and divert their funding better into and into ocean recoverysustainable fisheries management invest.

"The issue has been on the WTO agenda for two decades, it is high time governments finally acted to end trade distortions and environmental degradation fueled by harmful fisheries subsidies as quickly as possible."

Anna Holl-Buhl, WWF fisheries expert

  • 25 good reasons ...

    ... why there should be no more subsidies for overfishing and the destruction of our oceans, the international alliance #StopFundingOverfishing has put together. Continue reading...

Do something about overfishing as a consumer

Good management can also be implemented if Setting the right course for consumers and retailers: Those who prefer fish from sustainable sources are directing the market a little further towards nature-friendly fishing so that fish and seafood will still be available for many years to come. TheWWF Fish & Seafood Shopping Guide shows you which fish products you can safely eat and which one should currently avoid.

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  • Developing countries

    Much of our fish in Europe comes from developing countries. It is precisely there that millions of people depend on the catch, production, processing and sale of fishery products. Continue reading ...

  • Sustainable fishing

    Fishing can only exist in the long term if the state of the environment becomes its core issue. Only sustainable fisheries can preserve fish as a resource in the long term. Continue reading ...

  • Illegal fishing

    Illegal, unregulated and undocumented fishing (IUU fishing for short) is one of the greatest threats to marine ecosystems. Continue reading ...