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Issues of the Water Planet 
Marine Protected Areas - Whales - Coral Reefs

shark.jpg (5556 bytes) FISHERIES -  Ocean resources face increasing demands from humans for more food, more water, more recreational facilities, more waste repositories, more energy and more income.  Governments often seek to enhance the power and well-being of their citizens by maximizing industrial productivity at the expense of natural and cultural health.





Marine fisheries worldwide are in crisis. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), approximately 60 percent of the major fish resources are currently caught at or beyond maximum levels. Of the stocks for which formal assessments are available, FAO puts the figure at 69 percent: 44 percent are intensively and fully exploited, 16 percent are over-fished, 6 percent are depleted and 3 percent are slowly recovering. Despite expanding to new areas and new species with brutally efficient equipment, the fishing industry had an average catch of 83 million metric tons per year between 1990 and 1994, breaking with a trend of increasing catches that peaked in 1989.

In addition, an estimated average of 27 million metric tons of fish are thrown overboard every year because they are less valuable species or because they are too small to be worth the trouble. That makes a total of roughly 110 million metric tons of fish, well over the projected sustainable maximum potential of 100 million metric tons. The destructive efficiency of modern fishing is doubly damaging: it relies on techniques like bottom-trawling that destroy the seafloor habitat of potential fish and it discards the young fish that would be a new generation of harvestable size.

Fisheries management is a devilishly complex and argumentative "art" of juggling conflicting human interests. National ambitions for economic prosperity built a framework of subsidies to encourage industrial fishing; in the US, the National Fisheries Service is in the Department of Commerce, and the industry is similarly situated in other governments. This has meant that commercial fishers, the department's constituents, dominate decision-making. In recent years, recreational fishers have become an ever more powerful force, demanding a greater share of desirable species, swinging the considerable weight of their tourist dollars in coastal states. Of course, recreational and commercial fishers blame each other—and natural fluctuations in stocks—for fewer fish. Lately, fishers are blaming marine mammals. The biggest losers in the debate are the future generations of humans who face impoverished oceans.

Through its films and publications, and in coordination with many other environmental groups, The Cousteau Society has exposed millions of world citizens to the urgent need to address overfishing and destructive fishing immediately. Click on the links above to read more about specific examples of the damage being done in the name of productivity, expediency and economic gain.

If you want to help protect fisheries, join The Cousteau Society!