New Research Shows Rapid Destruction of Critical Fish Populations - Oceana USA

New Research Shows Rapid Destruction of Critical Fish Populations

Press Release Date: May 14, 2003

Location: Washington


Dustin Cranor, APR | email: | tel: 954.348.1314


Global Restoration Efforts Necessary to Prevent Collapse of Ocean Ecosystem and Fishing

Washington, DC – The large-scale exploitation of the oceans by commercial fishing has eliminated 90 percent of the world’s large fish, including tuna, marlin, and other groundfish species, according to two leading fishery scientists. This new research, to be published tomorrow in the international journal Nature, shows industrial scale fishing practices have emptied the oceans of critical fish populations at an alarming rate, potentially leading to catastrophic effects on the sustainability of fishing and the ocean ecosystem.

“The results of this study are remarkable—and depressing.  It shows that some of the most valuable and prized large fish species have been all but eliminated everywhere in the world.  No one knows what effect eliminating these species will have on ocean ecosystems—but we don’t expect it will be good,” said Dr. Michael Hirshfield, Chief Scientist of Oceana.

The study paints a bleak future for our oceans unless immediate and large-scale efforts are undertaken to manage fishing and rebuild the fish populations. The study found that commercial fishing reduced fish population to one-tenth of their size before in only 10 to 15 years – a time frame so short that in most cases, scientific monitoring or management of fish stocks had not yet occurred.  The authors point out that managers today are primarily working to stabilize reduced populations instead of working to truly restore them.

“The findings of the Nature study should be a wake-up call to fishery managers and regulators all over the world.  Without immediate action, fishery managers will not have anything left to manage—and fishermen will have nothing left to catch.  For years, the conservation community and responsible fishermen have argued that the ocean is not limitless, and have called for actions to prevent overfishing, reduce wasted catch, and limit the use of destructive fishing gear,” Hirshfield said.

Rebuilding the fish populations will require immediate and sustained reductions in fishing.  Some measures to achieve recovery include reducing globally the number of fishing vessels, reducing quotas and catch limits, prohibiting the use of destructive fishing gear, and eliminating unwanted catch.

This year, Oceana started two major campaign stop harmful fishing practices.  The Stop DirtyFishing™ campaign is working to eliminate the approximate 44 billion pounds of fish – an amount equal to 25 percent of the world catch – that are wasted in the course of commercial fishing.  The Stop Bottom Trawling campaign is working to prohibit the use of bottom trawling fishing gear, the world’s damaging fishing method that is causing unselective and systematic destruction of the ocean.

Oceana is a non-profit international advocacy organization dedicated to restoring and protecting the world’s oceans through policy advocacy, science, law and public education. Founded in 2001, Oceana’s constituency includes members and activists from more than 150 countries and territories who are committed to saving the world’s marine environment.  In 2002, the American Oceans Campaign became part of Oceana’s international effort to protect ocean eco-systems, thereby extending our outreach in the United States. Oceana, headquartered in Washington, D.C., has additional offices in key U.S. coastal areas, a South American office in Santiago, Chile, and will open a European office in fall of 2003.  For more information, please visit

Write your Senators immediately and tell them to enforce U.S. laws to stop overfishing before it’s too late!  Click on the link below and take action!