Global Fishing Controversies

May 31, 2019 • Volume 29, Issue 20
Does overfishing threaten the survival of ocean species?
By Charles P. Wallace


Scientists warn that industrial-scale fishing is depleting the world's stocks of tuna, cod and other sea life, making it harder for small-scale fishermen in developing countries to eke out a living and raising alarms that overfishing threatens entire species. At the same time, the ocean-warming effects of climate change are driving some species, such as lobster, to cooler waters, upending long-established commercial fishing patterns. Studies have found that one-third of species are overfished — up from 10 percent in 1974 — often by trawlers outfitted with high-tech fish-finding tools such as sonar and drones and equipped with gear that can haul in thousands of fish at a time. Diminishing stocks have led to calls for a ban on fishing on the high seas and the establishment of protected zones off coastlines. But fishing industry representatives argue that the migratory habits of fish would make bans ineffective, and they warn that restrictions could put thousands of commercial fishers out of work.

Pollock is unloaded last year at a fish factory in eastern Russia (Getty Images/TASS/Yuri Smityuk)
Pollock is unloaded last year at a fish factory in eastern Russia. Globally, the commercial fishing and aquaculture industries caught or cultivated 171 million metric tons of fish in 2016, up from 98 million in 1990. (Getty Images/TASS/Yuri Smityuk)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Aquaculture and Maritime Policy
Jun. 10, 2022  Governing the Seas
May 31, 2019  Global Fishing Controversies
Oct. 2007  Oceans in Crisis
Jul. 27, 2007  Fish Farming
Nov. 04, 2005  Saving the Oceans
Aug. 02, 2002  Threatened Fisheries
Sep. 27, 1985  Whaling: End of an Era
Jul. 16, 1982  Troubled Maritime Industry
Jun. 07, 1974  Oceanic Law
Sep. 29, 1965  National Maritime Policy
Sep. 04, 1963  Fishing Rights and Territorial Waters
Oct. 05, 1955  Territorial Waters and the High Seas
Jul. 21, 1954  Plight of the Maritime Industry
Jul. 10, 1935  Merchant Marine Policy of the United States
Jan. 15, 1929  Sea Power and Sea Law
Jul. 24, 1928  Government Aid to the Merchant Marine
Oct. 17, 1925  The Merchant Marine Problem
Apr. 26, 1924  The New Merchant Marine Situation
Climate Change
Commercial Law
Consumer Behavior
Consumer Protection and Product Liability
General International Relations
International Law and Agreements
Labor Standards and Practices
Regulation and Deregulation
Water Pollution
Water Resources
Wildlife and Endangered Species