The pace of world fishing is pushing the seas to the brink of capacity

The pace of world fishing is pushing the seas to the brink of capacity

The global fishing industry does not stop growing. The trend is reinforced year after year and, in this way, it is taking a good number of fishing grounds to the limit. The pace of world production has caused 30% of fishery resources to be overexploited. And in about another two-thirds (58%), the maximum that species can offer has been reached before collapsing, according to the latest analysis by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

FAO's country count amounts to 81.5 million tonnes taken from the sea in 2014. Half a million tonnes up from the previous year. To this must be added the 11 million fish in continental waters and another 73 million fish farms. In five years, although the FAO describes the level of catches as "stable", it has always gone up a little: 2.2%, which translates into two million tonnes of fish more. Many copies.

With that figure, 58% of the species that the fishing fleets seek are dominated. Fished at 100% of their ability to reproduce and thrive before going into crisis. But, in addition, 28% of the varieties are directly "overfished".

Spain is within the group of the 20 largest world producers registered by FAO. In 2014, it reported 1.1 million tonnes caught which places it in second place among Europeans, only behind Norway. In fact, the volume has grown at an average rate of 22% since 2003.

"The state of resources has not improved in general despite progress in some areas," they explain from FAO. The inertia reflected in his report is that 13 of the 25 largest producers tightened their fishing rhythm and took out more than 100,000 tons of fish above their previous records (China went to 800,000 tons of growth).

Coveted species

Only ten species account for a quarter of global production. They are highly coveted targets such as anchovies or cod. Four highly valued groups of animals such as tunas, prawns, lobsters and cephalopods have seen the fisheries force the pace.

The tuna boom drove fish to remove 7.7 million tonnes from the water in 2014. A historic record. Squid starvation has resulted in an explosion in catches of fast-growing, short-lived species "especially vulnerable to environmental changes." A name? The giant Pacific squid (Dosidicus gigas).

Although the depletion of the sea has accelerated especially in the Indian Ocean, one does not have to sail that far from Europe to find worrisome cases. In fact, the FAO has pointed out that the situation in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea "is especially alarming" due to the decrease in the resources that swim in these waters. Overfishing in those areas has reached 60%. The exact words of the organization are: "Fishing at unsustainable levels."

Raúl García, Head of Fisheries at WWF, recalls that large figures can camouflage circumstances "in which the limit of sustainability is being reached". García explains that the fishing grounds that are at "maximum production" need a truly sustainable management so that they do not exceed that limit. "That's where a large part of the problem lies: the governance of the countries where the banks are located." And he gives the example of the yellowfin tuna that has gone from the green zone "of maximum production" to the red one of "overfishing" at once. "And the whole fishing world knew it was going to happen but it hasn't been prevented." In his view, "the fight against overfishing has not yet had much impact on the oceans."

Where does the fish go?

To the industrialized countries. Although fish consumption in developing areas has grown a lot, the figures still show a very large difference: the first world consumes an average of 28 kilos of fish per person per year (there are those that reach 100 kilos. Spain is at 26 ). Developing countries average 13 kilos at best. And of only 7.5 the poorest states. The fish travels to Europe, North America and Japan. And it comes from afar since its resources (stagnant or in decline) are not enough to satisfy the constant demand of the population.

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