Education,  Learning Resources

Overfishing: Facts You Ought to Know and How to Help

Amidst the environmental challenges in our ocean today, overfishing poses a major problem to the integrity of our ecosystems and economies. When fish stocks decline, we all suffer.

For people across the globe, fishing is not only essential for food, but it is also essential for income. When fisheries are in peril, the livelihoods of entire communities and the fishermen providing for these communities are at risk.

Therefore, it is imperative to understand the consequences of overfishing and advocate for sustainable practices. To learn more about the causes of overfishing and solutions for ending overfishing, read this beginner’s guide.

Overfishing puts strain on the ocean and economy | Photo by NOAA

Overfishing Causes

According to the World Wildlife Fund, overfishing occurs when fishing operations capture fish quantities that outpace the rate of reproduction for the overall stock. Today, many stocks are under extreme pressure and are rapidly declining.

Overall, overfishing stems from a variety of sources. For example, counterproductive subsidies, increases in the number of fishing vessels, and illegal fishing are major causes of overfishing.

When it comes to subsidies, skewed accounts of the total business costs can keep too many ships in circulation and further facilitate harmful fishing operations. For instance, there are over 4 million fishing vessels in use today, posing major sustainability problems.

Lastly, another major driver of overfishing is illegal fishing, which accounts for an illicit profit of $36.4 billion annually.

To learn more about the advancements and abuses of fishing, please watch the video below.

So, How Bad Is It?

Now, that answer can surprisingly be summed up in one word.


Based on what you read, that number might mean several things. For example, in a news article by Stanford News, a study suggests that by 2050 all wild-caught fish stocks will collapse. In other news, the BBC evaluated a study that claims 2050 is the year there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

As more research comes to light, these projections may shift. However, the simple fact is that we really should put more thought into what the future may look like. Perhaps, fishing practices may improve for the better. Or, maybe we will dreadfully fulfill these 2050 projections.

Regardless, there is time to decide what path we want to take.

Putting an End to Overfishing

So, what can we do to curtail overfishing and restore the health of our oceans?

First off, in a news article by NOAA, recent research encourages more ecological approaches to overfishing. In the proposed model, there are three indices for evaluating fishery sustainability. For each of these indices, there are ecological parameters.

To begin, there is an index that measures the number of fish in a specific region. Then, the next index looks at primary productivity in relation to the fish caught. Lastly, the final index examines chlorophyll concentrations in relation to the fish caught.

With these indices, researchers are hopeful the global community can more accurately identify mismanagement and improve fishery practices.

Furthermore, research suggests that curbing government subsidies for poorly managed fishing operations may help end overfishing. In a National Geographic news article, the University of British Columbia found that, in 2018, governments poured $22 billion into adverse fishing subsidies.

Unfortunately, these numbers represent a disturbing trend in governments putting more and more money towards unsustainable fishing operations. Since 2009, there has been a 6% increase in environmentally damaging fishing subsidies. In China alone, there has been a 105% rise in these subsidies over the last 10 years, presenting numerous environmental challenges.

According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, more mindful management is vital to reducing overfishing. For instance, keeping accurate stock assessments is important in understanding fish stocks themselves. Additionally, restrictions on the number of catches allowed and the gear used may encourage stable stock levels. Furthermore, seasonal closures may be useful, and defined fishing zones may help with maintaining healthy fish levels.

Tuna is a highly sought after fish | Photo by Kate

What Can I Do To Prevent Overfishing Practices?

Thankfully, there are several ways you can help end the overfishing crisis. For example, make eco-conscious seafood decisions with Seafood Watch. Using Seafood Watch, you can make educated seafood purchases based on well-researched evaluations of the stock. In this way, you can make more sustainable decisions at the dinner table and promote better fishing alternatives.

Perhaps, you’d like to explore even more eco-friendly options. In that case, follow a few of the Sierra Club’s recommendations. The following are a handful of ways you can help reduce fish food waste:

  1. Consider purchasing frozen seafood, which has a greater shelf life.
  2. Try to buy seafood from a local fisherman, instead of from a grocery store.
  3. Be strategic about what parts of the fish you purchase and what meals you plan to make, so you don’t waste any parts of the fish.

So, Where Do We Go From Here?

Despite the looming and troubling challenges of overfishing, there is hope for a healthier and happier ocean. To protect our ocean for years to come, do your part in supporting environmentally-friendly fishing practices.

For much-needed inspiration in today’s world of ecological questions and decisions, please listen to David Attenborough share his vision for our ocean’s future in the video below.

From plastic pollution and coral bleaching to climate change and overfishing, our ocean faces numerous threats. However, there are also numerous ways to mitigate the prevalence of overfishing and promote more sustainable fishing practices.

If you’d like to learn more about environmental dangers in today’s ocean and ways you can help, read this blog post about plastic pollution and this blog post about coral bleaching.

For even more ways to support ocean conservation, check out this blog post about ways you can support aquariums and their environmental efforts.

Hi, I’m a San Diego-based blogger who's passionate about marine biology, finance, and science communication. Having recently graduated from UC San Diego with a bachelor's in marine biology, I am now working on a certificate in science communication. Over the years, I’ve worked in laboratory research and science outreach at aquariums, zoos, and environmental research centers. When I’m not writing, you can find me home brewing, tide pooling, skydiving, playing DnD, or hanging out with my two adopted guinea pigs. Reach out to me anytime, and follow Sand Dollar Wallet!

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.