Overfishing is driving the world’s nearshore fisheries to the verge of collapse, threatening the livelihoods and wellbeing of those who depend on the oceans.

Billions of people, often the poorest and most marginalized, depend on fish as an important source of protein.1 Small-scale fishers, those who operate just off the coast, are critical to meeting that need — they catch half the fish in developing countries, most of which is consumed by local people.2 In addition to providing sustenance, small-scale fishing operations generate and sustain nearly 100 million jobs worldwide.3

However, as demand for seafood continues to rise, the supply of wild-caught fish is plummeting.4 An estimated 64 percent of the world’s fisheries are overfished.5 Additionally, many nearshore fisheries remain largely unmanaged and/or unregulated, fueling a destructive “race-to-fish” mentality.

“The bulk of the [overfishing] problem is in little fisheries dispersed around the world where local communities do most of the fishing. That’s the real sweet spot in terms of fixing the problem. It is the place where we can get the biggest wins.”
-Steve Gaines, Dean of the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at University of California, Santa Barbara

Coral reefs, a critical life-support system for coastal fisheries, are increasingly stressed as well. Destructive fishing practices and other human activities, such as pollution, threaten a major part of the world’s reef systems.6 Degraded coral reefs and coastal marine ecosystems lose their ability to act as invaluable buffers against extreme climate events.

Exploitation of coastal fisheries is rapidly becoming both a humanitarian and environmental crisis. Real tragedy looms if action is not taken now.

Fortunately, solutions do exist that can revitalize fish populations and build the capacity of local communities to sustainably manage their fisheries. The Environmental Defense Fund, Rare and the Sustainable Fisheries Group at the University of California, Santa Barbara have combined their expertise in fisheries science, rights-based management and community mobilization to launch Fish Forever and address this critical issue.

Show 6 footnotes

  1. FAO, “The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA),” Rome, 2012.
  2. Flyer I-1882, FAO, World Bank, and WorldFish Center, 2008,.
  3. FAO and WorldFish Center, “Small-Scale Capture Fisheries: A Global Overview with Emphasis on Developing Countries,” 2008, 24.
  4. FAO, “The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA),” Rome, 2012.
  5. Costello Christopher, et al. “Status and Solutions for the World’s Unassessed Fisheries,” Science 338 (2012), 6106.
  6. World Resources Institute (WRI), “Reefs at Risk Revisited,” Washington, DC, 2011.