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Here is something that is not so tasty to chew. In 1970, over 90% of the global fishing activities were “within biologically sustainable levels”, meaning they were either under-fished or fully fished. Over the next four decades or so, this figure came down to less than 70%, implying that over 30% of the fishing areas are overfished today. What is more important is that the under-fished areas declined considerably from 40 to 10.5% during the same period. According to an independent thinking tank, “A small group of species accounts for about a third of marine capture fisheries production. Most of their stocks are fully fished, and therefore, there is no potential for increasing production….”

Even when countries accept the concerns, and take policy decisions to manage the fishing stocks, there seems to be a lack of political will. A study by The Pew Charitable Trusts found that “55% of fishing limits set by European Union (EU) members were above the scientific advice” in 2017. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, a global scientific organisation, advises on the production levels of the nations. This is an issue of grave concern because the EU has decided to end overfishing by 2020. The figures for overfishing varied across regions — North-Western stock (59%), South-Western stock (57%), North-Eastern stock (48%), and Baltic Sea stock (40%).

Here are the area-wise trends recorded by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations:

  • About a quarter of the stock was overfished in North-West Pacific. The varieties included Japanese Anchovy and a stock of Alaska Pollock.
  • In Eastern-Central Pacific, “overfishing currently affects selected coastal resources of high value, such as groupers and shrimps.”
  • Overall, 57% of the stocks were considered to be within biologically sustainable levels in the Eastern-Central Atlantic.
  • In South-West Atlantic, the Argentine Hake, an important species, “is considered overfished with signs of recovery.”
  • In Western-Central Atlantic, “some stocks of Penaeid Shrimps in the Caribbean and Guianas shelf have not shown signs of recovery in recent years, despite reductions in fishing effort. In addition, stocks of American cupped oyster in the Gulf of Mexico are now experiencing overexploitation.”
  • In South-East Atlantic, “the condition of Southern African Pilchard stocks has degraded appreciably, warranting special conservation measures from both Namibian and South African fisheries regulators.”
  • In the Mediterranean and Baltic Sea, “most stocks of sardinellas, deep-water shrimps, and cephalopods are probably maximally sustained fished to overfished.”
  • In Western Indian Ocean, “the main penaeid shrimp stocks… have shown clear signs of overexploitation.”  
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