There is a very nice summary article about overfishing and fisheries management at ActionBioScience written by Dr. J. Emmett Duffy, one of the world’s leading marine ecologists. Emmett is a pioneer of work on the importance marine biodiversity and he discovered the first known example of eusociality in a marine critter; shrimp that live within sponges. You may have seen Emmett’s footage of this in the David Attenborough movie “Blue Planet”. You can read about Emmett’s research here and his awesome blog the Natural Patriot here.
Ill exerpt some of Emmet’s article on “The Future of Marine Fish Resources” below. Read the full articles here.
Currently, fishing pressure appears to be near—if not beyond—the ocean’s capacity to provide. Estimates based on fisheries catch data, which were corrected for over-reporting by China, suggest that global fish catch peaked in the late 1980s, and this number has remained flat or begun to decline since.1,9The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) conducts the most comprehensive analysis of global fish stocks every four years, and recently reported that “the maximum wild capture fisheries potential from the world’s oceans has probably been reached.”1 The situation is reminiscent of society’s reaching the point of peak oil—although fishery production is at least partially a renewable resource.
What about individual fish stocks? In 2008, the FAO estimated that roughly half of the world’s 523 assessed fishery stocks are “fully exploited,” meaning that they are harvested at rates near their maximum sustainable limits, while another 28% are “overexploited or depleted,” meaning that they are being harvested at rates not sustainable in the long term.1 Even these numbers are uncertain and possibly conservative since they do not include many small-scale commercial and artisanal tropical fisheries; furthermore, these numbers do not include stocks that have already collapsed and been abandoned.