New Report Finds More Than 80% of World’s Fisheries In Danger From Overfishing - Oceana USA

New Report Finds More Than 80% of World’s Fisheries In Danger From Overfishing

Unknown Status of Many Stocks in Emerging Regions Puts Food Security and Economic Development at Risk

Press Release Date: May 26, 2008

Location: Geneva


Dustin Cranor, APR | email: | tel: 954.348.1314


A new report released by Oceana today concludes that more than 80 percent of the world’s fisheries cannot withstand increased fishing activity and only 17 percent of the world’s fisheries should be considered capable of any growth in catch at all. Too Few Fish: A Regional Assessment of the World’s Fisheries shows there is very little room for further expansion of global fishing efforts.
“The world’s fishing fleets can no longer expect to find new sources of fish,” said Courtney Sakai, senior campaign director at Oceana. “If the countries of the world want healthy and abundant fishery resources, they must improve management and decrease the political and economic pressures that lead to overfishing.”

Oceana’s report, based on data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), finds 58 percent of the world’s fish stocks are being fished at or beyond sustainable levels, 24 percent of the stocks have an unknown status and only 17 percent are considered underexploited or moderately exploited. The report also assesses the world’s fisheries by region. Some key findings include: 

  • In 6 regions that accounted for more than 50 percent of the total global catch in 2005, more than 85 percent of the stocks cannot sustain any further expansion of fishing; these areas include significant parts of the Atlantic Ocean, the western Indian Ocean and the northwest Pacific Ocean.
  • Major emerging fishing grounds, including the Southern Oceans, the western Indian Ocean and the southern Atlantic Ocean, have large numbers of fish stocks with unknown status, ranging from more than 50 percent to nearly 75 percent.

“The large numbers of fisheries with unknown status in major emerging regions is particularly alarming,” said Sakai. “These fisheries are at great risk of overfishing and depletion, which threatens the economic stability and social welfare of the people and communities that depend on the resource.”
Many of the areas with high levels of unknown stocks also have high levels of exploitation on stocks that have been assessed. This level of uncertainty creates significant challenges to effectively managing the fish stocks and ocean resources in these regions. For example, there is historical evidence of overexploitation and stock declines of species whose assessment status was unknown at the time of greatest catch.
Too Few Fish highlights the essential need for limitations on global fisheries subsidies. These subsidies are estimated to be at least $20 billion annually, an amount equal to approximately 25 percent of the value of the world catch. Fisheries subsidies create strong economic incentives to overfish and undermine good fishery management. The scope and magnitude of these subsidies is so great that reducing them is the single greatest action that can be taken to protect the world’s oceans.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is currently engaged in a dedicated negotiation on fisheries subsidies as part of the Doha trade round to reduce and control subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing. This week, nearly 70 ocean and fishery scientists from 16 countries called upon the WTO to stop overfishing subsidies in new outdoor advertisements throughout Geneva.

Claire Nouvian, world-renowned author and curator, and ocean ambassador for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), also launched a new exhibit, The Deep: Life on the Deep Sea Floor, at the WTO today. Nouvian was joined by WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy and Carl Gustaf Lundin, head of IUCN’s global marine programme. The Deep was organized specifically for the WTO and features stunning images of deep sea life from Nouvian’s widely acclaimed show of the same name, which opened at the Natural History Museum in Paris in November 2007.

For more information about Oceana’s campaign to stop overfishing subsidies, please visit