Sustainabile Fisheries

Good News for World Fisheries

It isn’t all doom and gloom in world fisheries according to the United Nations. To make it easy lets assign a letter grade to match the percentage of fish stocks being fished sustainably. The world as a whole earned a “B”, pretty good news.

Even better, we got an “A”.  Alaska, BC, Washington and Oregon are grouped together as the Northeast Pacific. Fully 88% of stocks here are fished sustainably! The remaining 12 % are below the level which would produce maximum sustained yield. This category covers a broad range; right from the worst case, a depleted stock, all the way up to stocks which are just below maximum production levels and are stable or increasing. 

It is truly amazing how much wild fish the ocean produces each year- over ten kilograms for every person on earth. The world fishery has remained fairly stable since the mid-1980s at 80 billion kg annually. The UN report projects: “relative stability in capture fisheries production, with possible increase if overexploited/depleted stocks are well managed”, at least for the short-term.

The world earned its “B” because 71% of fish stocks are at maximum sustainable levels but that leaves 29% below the level which can maximize catch and some of those, 4% of stocks, are so low they are classed “depleted”. So there is room for improvement.

There is another concern. Although the fishery is expected to remain stable for the short-term there may be a “decline of global catches in a not-too-distant future.”  In the mid-eighties 1/3 of stocks were under-fished and increased pressure on them has helped keep up the world harvest. Now only 10 percent of stocks are under-fished, in future we won’t be able to turn to under-fished stocks to top up the world catch.

We need to continue to improve our management of fishing and importantly, we have to prevent stock decline from habitat destruction. The shoreline and estuary habitat is especially important to fish production- the BP Gulf of Mexico and Valdez oil spills sadly made this clear. We need the rich productivity of our coast and Skeena estuary to keep our “A”.

References- State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2010 pg. 26 & 2014 pgs. 39 & 207