Overfishing links…

As recreational fishermen, overfishing, dwindling fish stocks and the state of marine environments are obviously a concern to all of us. I’ve started reading through the literature and the differing viewpoints and well, a lot of it is pretty complicated. How bad things are depends on who you decide to side with. Are things as bad as movies such as the End of the Line make out e.g. no fish by 2048, or are things, while still very worrying, significantly better than that? I’m not going to go into the whole topic in detail yet, just provide a few interesting links….

Firstly, the idea of ecosystem sustainabilty and the productivity of unregulated African fisheries. There is an argument to be made that catching fish in relation to their abundance in the ocean is possibly the best way to go, which flies in the face of the dogma that selective fishing is best… Keep the little ones? Just maybe?

Are big fish declining and small fish numbers increasing? A new study suggest that is what is happening. However there is some evidence against the idea of “fishing down foodwebs” across ocean ecosystems as a whole, here, here and here (with a few obvious counter examples such as the North Atlantic fishery in America and Canada). The original 1998 Pauly paper which popularised the idea of fishing down foodwebs is here and the recent paper questioning the usefulness of Mean Trophic Level as an indicator of fishery health is here.

Here are a series of videos of Ray Hilborn discussing the state of world fisheries



and a video with Boris Worm discussing the findings that came out of the work done by him and Hilborn and the link to their paper that came out of that work


Lastly, there is hope, this video talks about the history of Monterey Bay and its recovery from polluted wasteland to what it is today…


Anyway, I’ll probably write something about the whole area eventually once I’ve got my head around the background reading I’m doing (on a positive note, it doesn’t seem any marine fish species have yet been pushed into extinction by human exploitation, although there are a few species that seem to be getting close and a few have possibly gone for other reasons). I’ll also try to address is from a recreational fishermen’s perspective and the possible impacts we have on ecosystems, the amount of stress we put on fish stocks and the effectiveness of marine parks (they work by the way :)… but hopefully before then I’ll be able to get out on the water and write a few fishing reports and throw up a few recipes…



Just a few more links- Pacific Tuna and the possible collapse of the fishery by 2035

Sockeye salmon and Chinook salmon, recovering?

Collapse of the Northern cod fishery, a cautionary tale of how bad things can get

Greenpeaces plan for the oceans…

As should be obvious by now, fisheries collapses and fisheries management is complicated and multi faceted… Positively though its been shown on numerous occasions that we have the tools to manage fish stocks successfully, allow fish stocks to bounce back after over exploitation and to fix many of the problems we currently face. However, the biggest problem seems to be that all too often, this is not about protecting fish stocks, industries that rely on those stocks, or marine environments but about politics. This has been wonderfully illustrated by the Mediterranean Bluefin Tuna quotas which are above those recommended by scientists  and recently right here on our home turf with the original ETBF quotas that were set above those recommended by scientists. Anyway, as i said, I’m going to address this all in more detail in the future…

One thought on “Overfishing links…

  • February 24, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    I really enjoyed this post, Hamish. Hilborn’s objectivity is a pleasant rarity in the debate and he makes some convincing arguments. I never thought about the relative carbon footprint of fishing vs agriculture…pity I have to drive 3 hours to get to the coast! I particularly enjoyed the Monterey Bay case study. It was such an elegant example of success.

    I have had some really interesting arguments with people lately about recreational fishing. They say that the damage is ovious – they see fishing line left in a pile of beer cans and bait packets and make the connection between fisheries decline and recreational fishing. I ask them if they eat fish. Many say yes. I ask them if they understand how the fish they eat are caught. After explaining some of these things, they say ‘Oh, I see’…

    So, a mixed bag of ‘small’ fish is what I should be aiming for?!



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