Overfishing : an oceanic disaster

According to some scientists, if the overfishing keeps going at this rhythm, oceans will be empty by 2050. It seems unlikely, yet today, one fish species on three is threatened with extinction and still achieve to reproduce. We also estimate that 29% of the 600 species of fish in the world are on the way to totally disappear. And it is only a matter of fish, meaning that marine mammals, shellfish and mollusks are not counted.

What is overfishing?

We talk about overfishing when the quantities of marine resources are superior to the available “stock”. That’s why the specie in question are exposed to a fast collapsing, perhaps disappearance of their population.

Thus, we can name the example of the Terre-Neuve cod. This fish has been fished so intensively it was declared practically disappeared in the twentieth century. Ever since, its fishing is banned, and yet its population never could reconstitute. This species has definitely lost its position in the ecosystem.

You can consult the animate “put an end to the overfishing” on the Spion.com website here.

The overfishing consequences

  • The principal consequence of overfishing is the risk of disappearance of the targeted species. For example, it is often a question of the bluefin tuna, which is part of the most consumed fish in the world.

To give an idea, in the years 2000, the captures of this fish reached 53 000 tons per year, while they shouldn’t exceed 25 000 tons to insure the sustainability of the kind. The bluefin tuna is today an endangered species, such as the cod, the swordfish, the hake, the anchovy, many shark, ray species and many more !

  • The strong population decrease of a species imbalance the ecosystem. A striking example is the parrot fish : this animal “graze” algae developing on corals. Because of an intensive fishing, there is not enough parrot fish to help corals get rid of algae. They end up dying suffocating, which impacts hundreds of other species…
  • In developing countries, with the increase of the buying power and the population, the fish demand doesn’t stop growing. Thus, the fish industry developed fishing systems very profitable but incredibly destructives.


Among these methods, the most used in the world is the trawling. It allows the bigger bats to fish HUNDREDS OF TONS OF FISH EVERY DAY. Huge boats, reaching 150 meters, drag a gigantic net (the trawl) in a pocket shape. The biggest trawls have a “mouth” as wide as a rugby field and leave kilometers long scars on the seabed !

This fishing way can be performed on the surface just as well as in-depth. In the second case, the net is weight and scrape the bottom of the oceans, destroying everything on the way : coral reefs, breeding areas… These ecosystems, indispensable to maintain the ecological balance, took several thousands of years to form, and the nets are destroying them in a few minutes.

We can also name the nets drifting on tens of kilometers long, with fishing lines just as long counting up to thousands of hooks.


© Vikas Kanwal

There are also the cyanide and explosive fishing !

As if these methods were not productive and destructive enough, the technological means don’t cease to increase and become more and more efficient : radar, satellite location, drones and more are not leaving a chance to the fish.

  • These methods extremely devastating are also selective. Every boat rejects to the sea huge quantities of marine organisms “non wanted”. Among them we count big animals such as mammals (dolphins, whales), sharks, turtles and many birds. The non edible or marketable species too : fish too small to be sold or protected species. Some of these organisms are rejected because there is no more room on the boat or the captain decided it was not the species he wanted to catch.

Of course, all of these animals are thrown back to the sea dead or injured, and they are thousands of tons of living beings. For some fisheries, the bycatch are estimated to be 80 to 90% of the catch. A WWF report estimate they represent 40% of the total of marine catch.

A lack of political willingness

The fishing lobby is very powerful, and heavily financed by the taxpayer’s money. These subsidies always more significant support the industrial fishing, on board of factory boats constantly bigger. The fishing world subsidies are estimated at 30 BILLIONS dollars per year, of which 60% encourages methods non sustainable, destructive and even illegal.

However, it is going straight into the wall : the fish populations are to weaken to renew so they decrease, and boats return to the port less and less filled. Beyond the ecological disaster the overfishing represents, it jeopardizes the economical stability and the eating pattern of many human populations living from the artisanal fishing.

Despite the scientists warning and the damages of overfishing, the fishing quota hasn’t decreased or too sparsely. For example, in 2016, the Gascogne gulf sole’s quota has been lowered to only 10% against the initially 36% suggested. We can also name the case of the bass which population is dropping dangerously : the commission offered to ban their fishing for 6 months, it has lastly been brought back to 2 months…