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Consequences Of Global Overfishing Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 3404 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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This essay covers the world crisis of overfishing and its effects on the global economic and environment. Essay has found that fisheries are facing unusual crisis due to overfishing and overfishing is further threaten to the future sustainability of fisheries, the livelihoods of coastal fisheries and ecosystems. The reason of overfishing is associated with increasing population of the world which demonstrates increased food requirements for the population. In consequence, increased food requirement has led to overfishing. As a result of overfishing, marine species have declined in population and causing change to marine ecosystems (Peter, 1994). This essay is concerned about the issue of overfishing, reason of overfishing and after-effects of overfishing. Other main concern of the easy is the role of large countries and multinational corporations and in the same regard, economic and commercial issues will also cover to understand how trade factors like exceeding quotas and commercial fishermen are more likely to be responsible for overfishing.

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Fish is the basic source of protein for 950 million people around the world and it is included as basic diet of many people. Fisheries are also important source of employment and 200 million people around the globe are associated with fishing for their survival (Fontaubert & Lutchman, 2003). In addition, according to Dommen and Deere (1991), 40% of the global fishery production enters into international trade market with half of fishery which exports from developing countries. According to report of Gareth Porter (2003), “Fisheries Subsidies and Overfishing: Towards a Structured Discussion” released under United Nations Environment Programme, with expanding fishing in recent years there has been a considerable reduction in fish stocks and this reduction is more preferably observed in species for human consumption such as cod, haddock and plaice. Since 1950, fisheries production has increased about 6 % which is now fallen to zero (Miller & Spoolman¸2008). There is evidence for economic and environment harm causing due to overfishing whereas reduction in fishes has declined 100,000 jobs in last few years. Moreover, owing to these implications the cost of fishes in local markets have unusually risen (Weber, 1994). Considering all these consequences, overfishing has become one of the most serious environment and economic issues around the world. With the passing time it has become the tragedy of commons and situation of lack of property rights provides an open opportunity for everyone to catch as much fishes as they want regardless of considering for future. Under condition of tough competition commercial fishermen endeavor to deplete the seas as any fish left behind can be caught by someone else. As a result, world is going through common tragedy to which they are failed to addressed properly (Alessi, 2004).

Overfishing and its Implications

By definition overfishing is catching of exceeding number of fishes in order to hold sustainable fishing system by doing overfishing. Commonly, overfishing takes place when stock of fishes lose their stock down to an acceptable level. As a result of overfishing, fishes lose their capacity to survive as they largely depend on sea creature and able to breed new generation. An example of adverse effects of overfishing is that overfishing of sharks has led to upset the marine ecosystems (Shark Declines Threaten Shellfish Stocks, Study Says”, National Geographic News, 2007). The fishery’s potential to recover from the overfishing relies on the suitability of ecosystem condition. Unusual changes in the composition of species can also lead to shift in ecosystem where other equilibrium energy flows encompasses the species compositions. However, there are number of factors involved in the overfishing in the world, but many studies have revealed that with the increasing activities of human and extended living style, oceans are ruined and losing their natural beauty. In addition, in 1997, 50% of world’s population was located in sea areas including big cities of the world. This percentage is expected to remarkably increase to 75% (Marine environment and sustainable development, 2002).

There is immense importance of coastal areas as they provide many resources for sustainability in the world’s economy and also extraordinary influence on economic and social advantages. It is estimated that 90% of international trade depends on marine transportation. Moreover, coastal resources provide 25 to 30 per cent to the global energy supplies. Fisheries also create jobs and demonstrate rapidly growing industry which is estimated to give 30 per cent of the world’s fish consumption (Porter, 1998). Moreover, tourism is another fastest growing industry while only coastal tourism generates $3.5 trillion in revenues. Thus, all these economic activities and growth in population is placing great impact on the importance of marine areas.

Causes of Overfishing

Despite the fact that increasing population has required more food and more demand of food has led to overfishing, there are some other reasons that cause overfishing (Nordquist & Moore, 2000). Many reports reveal that fishing is the only industry in the world without any restriction and such open access of fishing makes fisheries to do overfishing (Fontaubert & Lutchman, 2003). The fishermen have increased double in 25 past years. In addition, the reason that fishing is free and open access to fishing persuades many people to do overfishing without taking care of maintaining the fish stock. Second are the government subsidies to overfishing. Study of World Bank has estimated that even though subsidies are declining yet it is worth $20 billion a year. Moreover, fisheries also provide jobs especially in poor countries which further help them to expand their industry. Subsidies also lead many companies to develop high-tech fishing which causes overfishing. Since fishing industry is taken into account as the best source of employment and export revenue, this is further leading to overfishing around the world. However, increase growth rate is questionable for the sustainability of the industry; therefore international environment communities are concerned about this issue. Another reason to which overfishing is associated is the increasing technological advancement. Invention of distant water fleets have brought about the fishing industry to developing countries which do not possess large fleets for fishing. Many marine creatures have constant threat from the invention of technological development. Moreover, excessive trawling and dredging with poisonous and explosive materials have negative ecological impact (Miller & Spoolman¸2008). Other than that, unwanted fishes cause depletion of fish stocks, on the other hand, fishermen with the imposition of quotas on the number of fishes discard low value fish and hold only high value fishes. Discarded fish amounts20 million tons and it accounts for one fourth of the annual marine catch.

Effects and Consequences of Overfishing

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation, there is 47% exploitation of world fish stocks and this leads to less expansion of marine creature in future. However, there are major changes in the composition of catching world marine species as they are caught when they are not grown or immature. With the decreasing harvesting, the fish prices are accelerating and making it less affordable fish. According to report, in 2002, 72% of the world’s marine fishes stock is harvested faster than their reproduction. Other than that, there are some negative effects on marine ecosystems. For this reason, there is greatest concern over the rapid depletion of fish population due to extensive commercial fishing.

Moreover, world fish population has immensely dropped in the history while most of fish population has 90% declined. This increase number of decline in the population of fish has caused changes to marine ecosystems and also endangering the total productivity of sea creature. As a result of declining rate of production and its impact on marine ecosystems, people around the world are suffering. The consequences of overfishing can be classified into two major concerns including environment and economic consequences. As far as environment consequences of overfishing are concerned, overfishing may cause reduced harvest of targeted fish and excessive harvest of non-targeted, undersized and protected fished and at last ecosystem changes. In addition, consistent overfishing can possibly eliminate the largest fish population. Overfished population is characterized by the less productive fish which leads to decline in the fish stocks. Harvest of non-targeted marine species or bycatch is estimated to form one quarter of world total fish catch. The bycatch method requires unwanted caught fishes to be discarded and at the time of discarding they are dead. The catching of unwanted fishes and marine species depend on the ways or fishing gears used to do fishing. Various types of fishing gears used are not capable of catching particular fish and usually trap unwanted catch. On the other hand, longlines can catch seabirds, turtles and other non-targeted fish along with the targeted catch. The use of gillnets catch seabirds, and other discarded fishes. Gillnets usually catch and kill marine species through ghost fishing. Trawls are specific to catch non-selective fishes and catch many different marine animals.

Environmentally overfishing can have immense adverse effects on the ecosystem. In 1990, world total catch had reached a plateau. This plateau is maintained by changes in species composition (Porter, 2003). The most demanded fishes tend to be fished the most. Once one demanded species is depleted fishing moves down the food chain and decrease the marine ecosystem. Thus, considerable environmental changes can bring about negative effects on the fish production levels.

Moreover, overfishing can also lead to changes in marine food web while leaving negative effects on the other marine species. Overfishing has indirect possible impact on the change of ecosystems such as coral reef ecosystems (Fontaubert & Lutchman, 2003). This occurs due to removal of plant eating fishes with the reduction in plant grazing. Thus reduction in grazing allows the algae to coexist with corals to grow and possibly take over, particularly when there is high level of nitrogen in water. It occurs due to reduction in light that allow entering into water and then algae contribute to the loss of corals while relying on light. Besides environmental consequences caused by overfishing, there are economic consequences such as number of environmental costs, and mismanagement of fisheries can lead to loss of number of marine species as a result of rise in harvest. Fishery resources with best management can give total rise10 million metric tons in harvest which adds annually $16 billion to worldwide gross revenues.

Other consequences are accounted as reduction in numbers of fishes and size of fishes. There is remarkable decline in the stock of fishes and it is frequently leading to decreasing safe biological limits. Thus, undefined quantity of fish stocks has risen with the time. Moreover, reduction in size of fishes, which is not total amount of adult fishes but also average size of fish, has also decreased. As measured in 2008, the size of a cod is often considerably less than this at 33cm. reduction in the length of fishes has been measured for many marine species. Overfishing is more often caused by excessive bycatch which contributes to the fishing industry. Thus economy cost includes decreased food production in fisheries directed at the adult marine animal of young discarded in other fisheries and further decreases the employment in fisheries. Eventually overfishing causes significant effect on the economic and environment costs (Miller & Spoolman¸2008). The prevention of overfishing and allowing the stock to rebuild can considerably improve the stock productivity and maximize the revenue for industry. Therefore, there is need to adopt such measures that helps to stabilize both resources and industry (Somma, 2003).

Subsidies Policy for Overfishing

Many suggest that fishing crisis caused by overfishing can be controlled using subsides but at the same time subsidies is identified as root cause of the problem. By using effective funds, subsidies can be helpful to stimulate fishing practice which can overcome fishing crisis. In order to further protect the fishing, government authorities must consider over elimination of harmful government subsidies for this purpose funds need to be redirected towards causes like reduction in capacity, the creation of stock recovery, and stock assessments (Nordquist & Moore, 2000). Moreover, the funding legislation structure can be used to influence to supporting sustainable fishing practices. However, subsidies can be good preventive measures but inappropriate subsidies of governments of the world are likely to earn more by increased subsidies although they can maintain the capacity of fishing fleets. In consequences, the creation of fishing controlling policies are promoting the overfishing rather than preventing the overfishing (Fontaubert & Lutchman, 2003). The implementation of such policies which are intended to increase the overfishing must be eliminated or modified to be useful for saving the fish stocks. Despite the fact that governments can support the policy of anti overfishing but they are reluctant to remove such subsidies as they are more concerned about the fishing industry and other possible negative socio-economic implications for fishing communities. Many countries are increasing fleet modernization subsidies even though there is severe overfishing, other countries which reduced pressure from fishing has caused economic and social problems along the coast.

Fishing Regulation and Impact on Overfishing

There are prevailing fishing regulations such as quotas, property rights and protected or banned areas but they are not enforced (Porter, 1998). There is difficulty found in enforcing such regulations by government and it is more problematic in developing countries. As a result of inappropriate enforcement or negligence of government regarding protecting seas species it has been identified as cause of overexploitation. Inefficiency of government specifically in developing countries to enforce such regulations is considered as further incentive for a big scale industrial vessel. In addition, even though these regulations are implemented strictly, there is further possibility of illegal fishing which is very common in developing countries (Nordquist & Moore, 2000).

Role of Developed Countries in Overfishing

The role of developed countries about overfishing is likely to more flourish the fishery industry in the world. Most of the EU countries including Britain, Spain, Denmark and France have encouraged the overfishing over the years and are aiding to fishery industry. A report has revealed that 29 percent of the EU has taken such measures that contribute to overfishing in the region. These contributions are justified with the modernization of fleet constructions. In addition, 17% is bestowed to take measures for healthy fisheries and fishing bans. Moreover, EU subsidies for fishing seemed to incapable in reducing the overcapacity of fleets which applies fishing pressure on the fishes stock. The important fish stock of EU has been engaged in overfishing which mainly includes sharks and prawns (Nordquist & Moore, 2000).

Ways to Combat Overfishing

However, there are number of countries which recognized this issue as global problem and taking considerable measures for combating overfishing by imposing subsidies over fleet construction, the role of developed countries has been observed a little which indicates great hindrance for combating the overfishing. Many nations of the world have jointly agreed on the plan to overcome the severity of the problem through protecting the world’s major marine fishery resources, other destructive and wasteful fishing activity. For this reason an international plan of action for the management of fishing capacity has been designed to achieve the efficient and transparent fishing capacity management. Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that in 1995 the world fishing fleet were about 3.8 million in numbers with 1.2 million vessels had storage space. Furthermore, in order to overcome the overfishing the first thing required is the reduction in the number of fishing fleets. Since reduction in fishing capacity can be achieved by relocation of vessels in other countries’ fisheries, fisheries is usually a serious issue butt does not contribute to a global reduction of fishing capacity (Dommen et al, 1999). Even though there is great consideration over the matter of reducing the fishing capacity in highly populous country but mostly developed countries do not intend to reduce or change the fishing pattern on account of increasing social pressure. In this regard, the best way is to reduce bycatch could be effective for lowering the overfishing. For this purpose nations of the world have to take stronger enforcement and better regulation into consideration. Currently there are a few countries which have considered about imposing such ban or restriction on bottom trawling such as Scotland, Philippines, Greece, New Zealand and Kenya. Since there is record recovery measured in these courtiers after implementation of these principles, there is great concern of the developed countries which have not yet shown interest in implementing such regulations (Peter, 1994).

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Most recently, Economic and Trade Branch of the United Nations Environment Programmes has arranged workshop program on Fishery Subsidies and Sustainable Fisheries Management. The purpose of this workshop was to offer a platform for nations to share their opinions and effects of subsidies on the fisheries. Another example for combating overfishing can be drawn from the fishery policy of European Council of Fisheries Ministers that has taken long term recovery plan for fish stocks. The council plan proposal has resulted in some conflicts but after some social considerations such as allowing fishermen to fish at low level and not to stop them on the whole there is mutual consent over preventing overfishing. Besides, there is need to adopt some common strategies which provide commitment between upstream and downstream countries. Moreover, with mutual consent, nations can develop an international governance framework that allocates the water on equitable basis.

Furthermore, since protection of ecosystems, which is in danger due to overfishing, must be considered by improving the policies for aquatic ecosystems protection and pricing products. Through improving the ecosystems protection and pricing products social and economical cost of the natural resources can be saved. In this respect, raising both public and political awareness is also significant which possesses concept of ecosystem-based management like integrated coastal zone. Natural resource management, which referred to the management of land, water and other natural resources, can be used as tool to promote the sustainable use of aquatic ecosystems.


With greater understanding about the importance of fishing in the economic and social effects, it is concluded that fishes are the most vital source of nourishment. Widespread overfishing has been causing the world to face numerous problems in regard to adverse environment effects and significant economic consequences. Since the poorest nations of the world are more likely to depend on the fishing for their survival, international organization must consider over such resolution which not only provides ultimate solution to environment problem but also decreases the possibility of deteriorating economic condition of the nations which is already in plague.


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