Global fishing stocks are in trouble. After expanding from 18 millions tons in 1950 to around 94 million tons in 2000, annual world fish catch has leveled off and may even be declining.
Scientists estimate that the number of large predatory fish in the oceans has fallen by 90 percent since the 1950s, while about one-quarter of the world’s fisheries are overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion.
Unsustainable fishing practices like bottom-trawling and some forms of long-lining not only deplete targeted species, but net sea birds, turtles, and other marine life, while destroying delicate ecosystems like deep-sea reefs. About one quarter of global fish catch is tossed back overboard, dead or dying, as bycatch.
Until recently few people gave much thought to ocean conservation. Despite evidence from the overexploitation of whales and North Atlantic cod, it was generally assumed that ocean species had nearly boundless capacity to recover from overfishing.
Powerful lobbying by the fishing industry meant that instead of addressing the problem, governments subsidized commercial fishing to the tune of at least $15 billion