Overfishing
 

Overfishing

The proportion of marine fish stocks estimated to be underexploited or moderately exploited declined from 40 percent in the mid-1970s to 15 percent in 2008, whereas the proportion of overexploited or depleted increased from 10 percent in 1974 to 32 percent in 2008. The proportion of fully exploited stocks has remained relatively stable at about 50 percent since the 1970s. In 2008, 15 percent of the stock groups were estimated to be underexploited and able to produce more than their current catches. This is the lowest percentage recorded since the mid-1970s. Slightly more than half of the stocks were estimated to be fully exploited and, therefore, their current catches are at or close to their maximum sustainable productions, with no room for further expansion.

The remaining 32 percent were estimated to be overexploited or depleted and, thus, yielding less than their maximum potential production owing to excess fishing pressure.

This combined percentage is the highest in the time series. The increasing trend in the percentage of overexploited and depleted and the decreasing trend in underexploited and exploited stocks give cause for concern. Most of the stocks of the top ten species, which account in total for about 30 percent of the world marine wild caught fisheries production in terms of quantity, are fully exploited. Of the 23 tuna stocks, most are more or less fully exploited (possibly up to 60 percent), some are overexploited or depleted (possibly up to 35 percent) and only a few appear to be underexploited.

Despite continued reasons for concern in the overall situation, it is encouraging to note that good progress is being made in reducing exploitation rates and restoring overfished fish stocks and marine ecosystems through effective management actions in some areas such as off Australia, on the Newfoundland-Labrador Shelf, the Northeast United States Shelf, the Southern Australian Shelf, and in the California Current ecosystems.