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Overfishing: Wasteful, Dangerous, and Negligent - When Will It Stop?

By Coty Perry

· Advocacy Stories

The author, Coty Perry, is Chief Marketing Officer at a website that aims to provide their readers with the best reviews on the best equipment, as well astips, tricks, and techniques on catching more bass and having more fun doing it.

Coty didn't love bass fishing at first cast. It took a few (thousand) throwsfor him to become obsessed with mastering every possible fishing style, technique, and lure. As a third-generation angler, he has a plethora of knowledge and experience on the water and loves sharing what he knows.

As with many other aspects of government policy, overfishing and other fishing-related environmental issues are a real problem, but it’s not clear that government intervention is the solution.   

In this case, Western companies primarily concerned with serious efforts to curb overfishing are not the ones who are most guilty of overfishing. What this means is that the costs of overfishing are disproportionately borne by the countries least engaged in practices that are counter to efforts to make commercial fishing more sustainable while also promoting conservation of fish biodiversity.  

What is Overfishing?  

Overfishing is, in some sense, a rational reaction to increasing market needs for fish. Most people consume approximately twice as much fish as they did 50 years ago and there are four times as many people on earth as there were at the close of the 1960s.    

This is one driver ofthe 30 percent of commercially fished waters being classified as “overfished.” This means that the stock of available fishing waters are being depleted faster than they can be replaced. 

Over 80 percent of fish are caught in trawling nets which are used tosweep through the water and scoop up anything in the way. The problem is,they’re not only catching the fish they want, they’re catching dolphins, seals, and other sea mammals along the way.  

Overfishing and Government Subsidies 

The subsidies that drive overfishing are highly lucrative: The governments of the world are giving away over $35 billion every year to fishermen. This effectively allows for large commercial fishing operations to take over the market or recapitalize at rates significantly below that of the market.   

It is this advantage that drives large mega fishing companies into unsustainable fishing practices.  

Which Countries Are Overfishing?  

As stated above, the main offenders with regard to overfishing tend to not be developed Western countries, but countries from the Global South and parts of Asia. 

However, when it comes to harmful subsidies there is a clear leader: China. A University of British Columbia study found that China provided more in the way of harmful subsidies encouraging overfishing than any other country — $7.2 billion in 2018 or 21 percent of all global support. What’s more, subsidies that are more beneficial than harmful dropped by 73 percent. 

Just How Bad is Overfishing?  

While fishing is happening at biologically unsustainable levels, the madness doesn’t stop there. Take the Pacific bluefin tuna for example. This species has seen a 97 percent decline in overall population and when the fishpopulation disappears, they don’t stop fishing there. They simply move down the food chain to less desirable catches like squid andsardines. This is called “fishing down the web” and it slowly destroys the entire ecosystem removing first the predator fish and then the prey.  

What Are Some Alternatives to Government-Driven Overfishing?  

Innovations exist allover fishing and watersports from life jackets to prevent drowning to tools to help pull fish out of the water.Simple innovations based on existing technologies, such as Fishtek Marine seek to save sea mammals from the nets ofcommercial fishermen while also increasing profit margins for these companiesin a win-win scenario. Their device is small and inexpensive and thus does not present an undue burden to either the large-scale commercial fishing vessels or small fishermen looking to eke out a living in an increasingly difficult market.

One such alternative is called territorial use rights in fisheries management (TURF). In this case, individual fishermen or collectives of them are provided with long-term rights to fish in a specific area. This means that they have skin in the game. They don’t want to overfish the area because to do so would be to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.    

So they catch as many fish as is sustainable and no more. They have a vested, long-term interest in making sure that there is no overfishing in the fisheries that have been allotted to them.    

You can read the full article to learn more at