World - Rules and Consequences: How to Improve International Fisheries
Pew is working to strengthen the governance of global fisheries and bolster the health and resiliency of the world’s ocean
Overfishing is one of the greatest threats facing the ocean, with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reporting in 2020 that one-third of all fish stocks are overfished and that another nearly 60 percent cannot sustain any increases in fishing. At the same time, the U.N. reports that biodiversity is declining, with 33 percent of marine mammals, sharks, and other related species threatened with extinction.
Insufficient and ineffective management of industrial fishing has played a large role in this decline. At least 130 fish stocks—worth billions of dollars annually—are managed internationally, but there are few cohesive rules in place to ensure their sustainability. Even where science-based measures exist to help stocks recover and reduce the impact of fishing practices on other marine species, there are few consequences for those who skirt the rules. Further exacerbating the situation is widespread illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. In some developing nations, IUU accounts for more than 30 percent of fish taken from their waters and is often a sign of weak governance that affects the food and economic security of coastal communities that rely on fishing.
In recent years, however, there have been promising developments in the management of international fisheries. These include new ways to improve the long-term health of fisheries and the ecosystem they are a part of; evolving technology and cooperation among coastal, flag, market, and port States to track and prevent illegal fishing; efforts to improve compliance with existing rules; and international treaties aimed at building a stronger governance system.