The heavy toll of overfishing
The world is missing out on nutrition for millions of people.
23 February 2021 | Supplements
Seafood is a key source of nutrients and protein and plays a vital role in the diets of many. Over 3.3 billion people around the world get at least 20% of their daily animal protein intake from fish. As the global population continues to rise, it is increasing pressure on this valuable, natural resource. Global consumption of seafood has risen by 122% in the last 30 years.
Over a third of global fish stocks are now fished beyond sustainable limits, with this trend continuing to worsen slightly.
Latest estimates suggest that if global fisheries had been better managed, 16 million tonnes more seafood could have been harvested every year, helping to feed a rapidly growing population.
The MSC’s analysis shows, if globally adopted, sustainable fishing practices would increase the additional protein available to meet the annual needs of a population equal to that of the South Africa and its bordered neighbouring countries.
The global population is set to reach 10 billion by 2050 and food production urgently needs to be made sustainable and equitable to ensure healthy diets for all. Effective management of fisheries allows stocks and ecosystems to recover, in turn increasing the amount of fish that can be sustainably harvested in perpetuity.
Dr Rohan Currey, Chief Science and Standards Officer of the MSC said: “Tackling over-fishing is a ‘win-win’ for our planet. By conserving our rich marine resources, we also enable more people to have the protein they need to live healthily. We know the practices that need to be adopted in order to enable sustainable fishing. What we need now is international will and cooperation to implement these across all waters, borders and species globally. Future generations have the right to sustainable food sources. As the global population continues to rise, the need to harness our natural resources responsibly is more urgent than ever.”
In recent years, more fisheries than ever have been adopting sustainable fishing practices. In 2020 there were 409 fisheries around the world certified to the MSC’s sustainability standard, with another 89 undergoing assessment.
To be MSC certified, a fishery must show the fish stock is healthy, that it minimises its impact on the environment and has effective management in place.
To accelerate change, fisheries however need the support of governments to ensure that catch limits are in line with scientific advice, that illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing is tackled, and that harmful subsidies which encourage over-fishing around the world, are eliminated.
Overfishing in Africa
More than a third of fish stocks around the world are overfished, yet sustainable fisheries are more productive and resilient to change according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.
The World Bank has estimated that the amount of fishing in African waters would need to be reduced by more than 50 percent in order to reach an equilibrium that protects both fish stocks and profits.
The MSC works with fisheries around the world to combat overfishing, including the Namibian Hake fisheries.