Industrial fishing could become one of the biggest threats to the ocean ecosystem - but how can we reverse the damage?

The ocean is arguably our most valuable global resource; it produces a significant amount of oxygen we breathe, provides rainwater and drinking water and far more. As of 2021, over two hundred and fifty million people worldwide depend on ocean ecosystems, whether it be for employment, food, residence or more. 

Industrial fishing provides food and employment for millions of people around the world, however one third of commercial fish stocks are overfished, meaning that marine species are being removed from water at a faster rate than which they are able to renew, causing an imbalance in the oceanic food chain. An additional disadvantage of industrial fishing is that the number of marine species which are ‘bycaught’ is steadily increasing over time. Bycatch is the accidental capture of marine species other than the species being fished for. Slightly over forty percent of fish stocks, or thirty-eight million tonnes of fish are unintentionally killed due to bycatching. This dilemma could place already endangered species, such as chimaera, at risk of extinction. 

The alarming statistics have startled both climate activists and world leaders at COP26, with oceanographer Sylvia Earle calling for an industrial fishing ban, and claiming certain nations are “benefiting disproportionately on an industrial scale from the wild animals that live [in international waters]’’. COP26 also saw 20 nations sign the ‘Because the Ocean’ Declaration, a pact which entails the implementation of ocean conservation in plans to fulfil the Paris Agreement. 

Although, as ordinary citizens, it may seem an issue which is beyond our grasp, we can help mitigate the problems generated by industrial fishing. It is possible to purchase certified sustainable seafood - seafood which has been traced back to a sustainable fishery - at the supermarket. Charities and non-profit organizations dedicated to conserving marine wildlife also accept, albeit small, donations from everybody to further fund their remarkable work. 

Data from WWF and The Guardian