Researchers alarms that people’s enormous appetite for fish leads to transforming much of the world’s oceans into aquatic desert.
In 2017, global catches topped 92 billion tonnes, more than four times the amount fished in 1950, according to the United Nations.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns that fish stocks are overexploited the world over. Some species have become so rare that they require protect status, and experts fear for the very future of the fishing industry if catches continue at their current level.
According to Didier Gascuel, a researcher at Ifremer, which monitors the health of oceans, global fish stocks “could fall so low that it’s no longer viable to go fishing.”
It is not just the amount of fishing that concerns scientists, it is also how we fish.
Today trawlers account for around half of global catches, their giant nets often indiscriminately sweeping up any fish in their path.
Then there’s bottom trawling, where a weighted net is dragged along the seabed, seriously damaging ecosystems in the process.
“They plough the ocean depths to fish without discrimination, which impacts the coral, sponges etc,” said Frederic Le Manach, from the campaign group Bloom, which lobbies for an end to bottom trawling.
The European Union outlawed the practice in 2016.
Longlining, where baited hooks are stretched out kilometres along a main fishing line leading to birds and turtles being trapped as well as fish, is currently legal.
As long as electric pulse fishing, where fish are herded towards nets using electrical currents. But it is set to be banned in 2021.
Scientists say that this ban is going to impact the industry hugely regarding the fact that the Netherlands in particular relies on this technique.