Those who enjoy sea fishing will have experienced a disappointing success rate compared to just a few decades ago. It wouldn’t take Einstein to work out that poor catches are the result of over fishing. Fish stocks have been seriously depleted and it would appear that the situation is likely to get worse.
The global fishing fleet
A recent study has indicated that the global fishing fleet has more than doubled since the middle of the last century. Researchers have found that the number of fishing boats around the world has risen from 1.7 million in 1950 to 3.7 million in 2015. The increase has largely been driven by technology. Boats are now more likely to be motorised and therefore a more attractive proposition for those considering fishing.
The situation is bad news for the environment and not much better for the people who depend on fishing for their livelihood or simply to eat. The research also shows that the global fleet can now expect to catch 80% less fish than in 1950 for the same amount of effort. Recreational fisherman will recognise this problem.
The east-west divide
While North America and Europe traditionally have strong fishing industries, there has been a steady decline in the size of the fleets in these regions. The growth in fleets has mainly occurred in Asia where the number of boats has risen by a whopping 400%. The study indicates that there could be as many as one million more boats on the world’s oceans by the middle of this century and that would be a big problem for fish stocks.
Depleting fish stocks
Research conducted by the United Nations shows that 90% of the world’s fish stocks are already depleted, over fished or fully exploited. The issues are being exacerbated by climate change and the resulting warming of the oceans. It might be time for governments to reassess their fishing regulations.
Fish stocks in North America, Europe and Australia have been stabilised over the last 20 years as a result of the restrictions which have been imposed together with the available compensation for retiring boats. But it is a very different story in the rest of the world. More ships will mean that stocks will become further depleted. To make matters worse, a greater number of the boats on the water will have engines instead of sails and engines are getting larger. All of which means that the peak of intensive fishing has not been reached.
In short, there are more boasts chasing fewer fish, maintaining sustainability is becoming harder and while countries in the west have taken steps to tackle the problem, governments in the East haven’t.
The study, which has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, doesn’t inspire optimism. There could be even less fish for recreational fisherman to go after in the near future and it is disturbing to think what the impact on the environment might be.