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Overfishing, if left unchecked threatens to wreak havoc not only on marine ecosystems, but also on the humans that depend upon the ocean for their dinner, and their livelihood.

  • 75% of fisheries are overfished. If nothing changes, all fisheries will have collapsed by 2050. [1]
  • With a growth rate of 11% a year since 1984, aquaculture is the world’s fastest growing food-producing sector. [2]
  • One in five people on this planet depend on fish as their primary source of protein. [3]
  • Many large commercial fish, like bluefin tuna and cod, have collapsed, in some cases shrinking more than 90 percent. [4]
Quick Facts

The Scary Truth About Overfishing

Since 1950, we have systematically worked our way down the food chain by fishing out all the top predators, one after the other. [5]

The ocean covers 71 percent of the earth’s surface, contains 50 percent of all life on earth, yet 95 percent of the underwater world remains unexplored [6]. The ocean serves as a major food source and global economic source for millions [5].

Overfishing is becoming a serious problem that can’t be ignored for much longer. The UN estimates that 90% of the world’s fisheries are fully, to over-exploited, depleted or in a state of collapse [5]. The overfishing numbers are scary, but what is even more scary is that they are said to be years behind the actual numbers as it is difficult to aggregate the data on a global scale. Overfishing if left unchecked can not only ruin whole ecosystems, but can also leave people without a food source, or an income.


Bottom trawling in the North Pacific accounts for 18% of the ground fish catch, but for a staggering 82% of the discarded fish [8]

As near-shore fishing populations have been all but wiped out, commercial fishers have turned to bottom trawling: a technique that involves dragging a large, weighted net across the ocean floor. Each year, an area twice as large as the lower 48 states is trawled in hopes of finding fish [9]. Bottom trawling catches huge amounts of fish, but a large portion are undesirable. For example, bottom trawling in the

North Pacific accounts for 18% of the fish caught for sale, but for 82% of the discarded fish. Recent research shows that bottom trawling has a staggering impact on the ecosystem that makes up the sea floor by killing, crushing and moving fragile coral reefs, sponges and of course, fish. Damage from bottom trawling may be hard to see from the surface, but from satellite imagery the large, billowing plumes of debris it leaves in its wake show just how scarred the ocean floor is from fishing.

Understanding Aquaculture

Today, half of the seafood eaten in the U.S. is farmed[11]

As wild fish stocks continue to decline rapidly around the globe due to overfishing and climate change, aquaculture - or fish farming - has emerged as perhaps the only viable way to satisfy the world's appetite for fish. While fish farming may seem like a great idea, it too comes with a list of undesirable side effects. When fish are farmed in open net pens they release byproducts directly into

the environment including: fish waste, disease, parasites, pesticides, and antibiotics. Additionally, each year several hundred thousand fish escape from aquaculture farms and not only compete with native fish but also may interbreed with them, forever changing the DNA of the native species. Finally, as the demand for aquaculture fish continues to rise, having a governing body that regulates the industry while providing safe practices can ensure that our wild fish species remain unharmed. [11]

The Importance of Predators

Hong Kong handles at least 50% and perhaps as much as 80% of the world trade in shark fins [12]

It is estimated that 100 million sharks are killed annually to supply the ever-increasing demand for the key ingredient in shark fin soup[12]. The global shark fin trade business is booming, but killing predators at the top of the marine food chain can create brutal side effects in ecosystems. Sharks are a key component in a balanced ecosystem because

they are often the only natural predators of large prey like marine mammals and turtles[13]. When shark populations are depressed, their natural prey run wild and cause serious problems further down the food chain. One such example can be found in North Carolina, where blacktip sharks were in severe decline, allowing the cownose ray to soar in numbers. The swelling number of rays so thoroughly decimated the scallop population that it may not bounce back, permanently altering both the ecosystem and livelihood of local fisherman[14].

This month CharitySub is doing its part to end overfishing. We’re supporting charities that work to end overfishing through policy change, by reinventing the seafood industry, and creating programs that promote a healthy ocean and sustainable fisheries.
Together we can save the fish and our oceans!

5 Easy Ways You Can Help


  1. Share this page on Facebook and Twitter.
  2. Look for the MSC logo when buying fish.
  3. Pin our graphics on Pinterest.
  4. Download a seafood watch pocket guide
    to help make sustainable choices.
  5. Support our CharitySub vetted partners.

Let’s support sustainable seafood together.

Future of Fish

Reinventing the Seafood Industry
Future of Fish

Future of Fish helps build businesses to make them free-standing engines of change. With development of inventory tracing technology, they reduce the problems of overfishing and mislabeled fish, and are supporting businesses that drive positive values.


Connecting Fisherman & Lawmakers

The Marine Fish Conservation Network (MFCN) is an alliance of recreational anglers, commercial fishermen and environmentalists. They connect fishermen to policy and law makers so they can create innovative solutions together.


Ocean Conservation Communication

Seaweb brings industry leaders together to find solutions around overfishing and sustainable seafood. They combine a unique collaborative approach with strategic communications and sound science to catalyze positive ocean change. Their efforts affect policy, research, and culture.