UN report warns of dangers of over-fishing world’s top marine species

7 March 2005

With seven of the top 10 marine fish species fully exploited or overexploited, serious biological and economic drawbacks are likely if fishing capacity for these stocks is further increased, according to a new United Nations report released today.

“While recovery of depleted stocks is urgent, it is just as important to avoid depleting still-healthy stocks in the first place by matching fishing efforts to what these stocks are capable of supporting,” UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Assistant Director General for Fisheries Ichiro Nomura said of the species, which together account for about 30 per cent of all capture fisheries production. They include Atlantic herring, Japanese anchovy and Chilean jack mackerel.

“Stock depletion has implications for food security and economic development, reduces social welfare in countries around the world and undermines the well-being of underwater ecosystems,” Mr. Nomura added in releasing the newest edition of FAO’s biennial report, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA).

Its publication came as representatives of nearly 50 countries gathered at FAO’s Rome headquarters for the 26th meeting of the agency’s Committee on Fisheries (COFI), where they will discuss the issues raised in SOFIA.

Strategies for rebuilding stocks identified in the report include significantly decreasing or temporarily stopping fishing in overexploited fisheries, reducing degradation of underwater environments and actively rehabilitating damaged habitats.

Regions with stocks in greatest need of recovery include the Northeast Atlantic, the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea, followed by the Northwest Atlantic, the Southeast Atlantic, the Southeast Pacific and the Southern Ocean.

Fish consumption increased from 93.6 million tons in 1998 to 100.7 tons in 2002, providing 2.6 billion people with at least 20 per cent of their average per capita animal protein intake.

According to FAO, there has been a consistent downward trend since the 1950s in the proportion of marine fish stocks with potential for expanded production, coupled with an increase in the proportion classified as overexploited or depleted.

Currently, 52 per cent are fully exploited, which means they are being fished at their maximum biological productivity, 16 per cent are overexploited and 7 per cent are depleted, according to SOFIA.

 

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