Over Fishing:
Consequences and Sustainability

Over fishing and fishing methods have decimated the ocean's fish stocks. Can it recover?

Worldwide, the oceans fish stocks are in decline, both in numbers of remaining fish and the size of those being caught. Overfishing and lack of effective conservation are taking their toll.

Economists would call it the tragedy of the commons. That means that since no one owns the seas and oceans of the world what we have is a free for all to see which countries can harvest the most fish for their own people or which companies can harvest the most for the sake of profits.

One major threat to ocean ecology is the fishing industries use of drag nets and long lines that indiscrimately destroy all the fish and bottom habitats in their path.

Since the damage is largely invisible to us, there is very little outcry. If we did the same thing on land, say like having a miles-long bulldozer destroy every living plant and animal in its path, leaving a dead wasteland, someone might notice and take action.

Over Fishing:  A Study of Four Fish

The best selling book, Four Fish, shown below examines the four fish that dominate our menus: salmon, sea bass, cod, and tuna. Author Greenberg details the forces that get fish to our dinner tables and reveals our damaged relationship with the ocean and its inhabitants.

Rampant overfishing and an unprecedented biotech revolution have brought us to a point where wild and farmed fish occupy equal parts of a complex marketplace. Four Fish offers a way for us to move toward a future in which healthy and sustainable seafood is the rule rather than the exception. Click on the books image to buy it or read a review.

The politician's solution would be to establish fishing seasons and size limits. All that does is to force fishermen to catch as much as they can during the season and throw overboard the dead fish that don't meet the size requirement.

An economist would probably approach the problem of over fishing by getting a good estimate on the size of the fish population and then establishing an annual quota for each licensed fishing boat.

The quota would be a fraction of the estimated population and set to ensure a decent catch but leaving ample fish to continue the species.

The boats could go out fishing anytime they wanted, making as many trips as they wanted but would have to stop once their quota was reached.

This solution avoids the mad dash to deplete an area as fast as possible during the season, spreading it out over a year’s time, and leaves good breeding stock to maintain sustainability.

At least for fish, the future of seafood would be assured and the problem of over fishing would be solved.


From here we move on to look at the question of sustainable farming but if anyone desires to read more about sustainability of fish in the oceans, see what the National Geographic has to say about over fishing.

Or return to the home page.

Or go back to the future of food lead-in page.

Or go back to the environment pages.

Or jump to factory farming and health pages. 

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