There are two main reasons why illegal fishing should matter for everyone because of how profoundly it is affecting the balance of life in the ocean and the economic disparities across the world.
When overfishing occurs, the amount of fish left in the ocean to continue breeding and also providing for other important ocean life is seriously depleting, which means putting the fish that we eat at a higher risk for extinction as well as other species that depend on them. In regards to the economic problems, this illegal fishing causes a severe depletion in fishing stock along poor countries whose economies depend greatly on fishing for jobs.
On September 25, the United Nations General Assembly adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals, two of which were aimed specifically at protecting the ocean and those who rely on the ocean for their livelihood. Goal 14 focuses on conserving ocean life and goal 10 focuses on reducing the inequalities, particularly in the area of the disparity of wealth.
The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization has found that marine and coastal resources comprise 5 percent of the world’s GDP, and over 10 percent of the global population depends directly or indirectly on the fishery industry for their livelihoods. Of these people employed by the industry, roughly 90 percent work in small-scale operations in developing countries. The video states:
“Overfishing is at critical levels and shows no signs of stopping. Massive companies — and countries — are taking advantage of inequality.”
A 2013 study conducted by fisheries scientists at the University of British Columbia found that certain countries on the world stage aren’t playing by the rules, instead, capitalizing on smaller, poorer nations’ inability to protect their own coasts: China is catching 4.6 million tons of fish per year — 12 times more than the Chinese government reported they were catching to the U.N., and worth about US$ 11.5 billion. These fish are caught from the waters of over 90 countries worldwide, primarily from the coasts of West African nations.
When marine and coastal resources are illegally harvested, economic inequity is fueled: fishermen in developing nations lose their income as their fishing stocks are further depleted, and are often forced into illegal fishing themselves. This competition can contribute to the spike in negative incidents and piracy in West African waterways. And a 2014 Marine Policy study found that consumers in wealthy nations are, often unknowingly, eating the same illegally harvested fish for dinner.
Image credit: tambaco/flickr
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