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Fixing overfishing

As with many other aspects of government policy, overfishing and other fishing-related environmental issues are a real problem, but it’s not clear that government intervention is the solution.

Over three billion people around the world rely on fish as their primary source of protein. About 12% of the world relies on fisheries in some form or another, with 90% of these being small-scale fishermen — think a small crew in a boat, not a ship, using small nets or even rods, reels and lures. There are 18.9 million fishermen in the world, most of them falling under this same small-scale fisherman rubric.

Countries primarily concerned with serious efforts to curb overfishing are generally not the ones who are most guilty of overfishing. What this means is that the costs of overfishing are disproportionately borne by the countries least engaged in practices that are counter to efforts to make commercial fishing more sustainable while also promoting conservation of fish biodiversity.

These are important issues not just for commercial fishermen, but also those interested in questions of conservation and sustainability in general, as well as recreational fishermen and really anyone who uses fish as a food source. As the ocean goes, so goes the planet, so it is of paramount importance for everyone to educate themselves on what is driving overfishing, what its consequences are and what meaningful steps can be taken.

What is overfishing?

Overfishing is, in some sense, a rational reaction to increasing market needs for fish. Most people consume approximately twice as much food as they did 50 years ago and there are four times as many people on earth as there were at the close of the 1960s. This is one driver of the 30% of commercially fished waters being classified as being ‘overfished’. This means that the stock of available fishing waters are being depleted faster than they can be replaced.

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