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Ocean fisheries: Global marine resources continue to decline

In spite of action on the part of coastal States, and good progress in some cases, the overall decline in global fisheries continues. The most serious pressures on fisheries resources remain overfishing, pollution and loss of habitats. Policy and management actions to safeguard these resources must focus on countering the overcapacity of fishing fleets and the integration of plans to rebuild marine resources with national political and economic decision-making.


Fish is the most important source of animal protein for over one billion people. The population growth in southern countries, the rising demand for fish in industrial nations and increasingly more effective fishing methods strain wild fish stocks beyond biologically safe limits. Despite the worldwide increase in contribution to supplies, fish farming has not truly relieved pressure on the oceans, as the feedstuffs required here in turn widely originate from the ocean.


The seas of the European Union are especially overfished when compared globally. For decades the fisheries policy has not been successful in counteracting this with effective measures. Only in 2013, with the planned reform of the „Common Fisheries Policy” (CFP), will the European Union provide the opportunity to shift its focus towards fishing which is both environmentally sound and economically sustainable in the long-term, even beyond European waters, as the fishing fleets also fish off the shores of West Africa and in the Southern Ocean, exporting the overfishing problem.


In contrast to highly-equipped fishing fleets, artisanal fishers in many regions of the world go out with the simplest of fishing equipment and concentrate on coastal and protected waters, on coral reefs or mangroves. Even here, without effective fishing management with the participation of the local people directly dependent on fish and seafood, sustainable fishing cannot be achieved.


The globalised market for fish and other seafood is one of the economic factors contributing to overfishing of the oceans. Each individual can act against this and use their leverage through sensible purchasing behaviour. Deciding on products from sustainable fisheries will change the range of fish and, ultimately, the fisheries policy.



Special reports:


The Antarctic krill fishery has been the largest fishery in the Southern Ocean since the late 1970s. In most recent years, almost all krill fishing vessels have been operating in coastal areas of the South West Atlantic region... ... more

The Southern Ocean is a hostile marine environment. It is also a place of great beauty that contains unique fish, bird, mammal and coral species, and thousands of invertebrates, plants and micro-organisms – many of which we know little about... ... more



We are still a long way from achieving the sustainable and environmentally sound management of fish stocks which many regional and international conventions call for. And time is running out, because ... more

For centuries, fishery practice seems to have been environmentally sound. Fishermen took less from the sea than could regenerate. Along the coasts of the North Sea, however, the effects of fisheries were already noticeable 100 years ago ... more

A simple model to illustrate the relationships between sea organisms is the marine food chain: single-celled algae are the primary producers which make use of sunlight to form the complex molecules which they need for growth and reproduction ... more

Despite national regulations and international treaties to safeguard fish stocks, the rate of positive progress is only gradual. In many countries there are no fisheries management plans in existence, ... more