World Food Day: Overfishing puts both fish and fisheries at risk | WWF
World Food Day: Overfishing puts both fish and fisheries at risk

Posted on 16 October 2018

With 800 million people depending on fish for both food and income, a sustainable blue economy must now be the centrepiece for building and implementing EU ocean policy.
Brussels - 16 October 2018

On World Food Day, WWF warns against the dramatic impact of our overfished ocean on people around the globe. Currently, 33 percent of fish stocks are overfished with a further 60 percent at maximum capacity with no possibility to increase catches without crossing into a state of overfishing1. At the same time, more than three billion people rely on fish as an essential source of protein. 

“Our heavily overfished ocean puts global food security at risk, as well as the livelihoods of 800 million people depending on fish for both nutrition and their economic security”, says Samantha Burgess, Head of Marine Policy at WWF European Policy Office.

Europe is the biggest seafood market globally. However, 60% of fish and seafood sold on the EU market is imported2 whilst 74% of the assessed fish and shellfish populations in European seas are not in Good Environmental Status3

The EU has committed to leading on the delivery of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals4 (SDGs) and to improving international ocean governance by 2020. However, more work needs to be done to successfully implement the IUU Regulation requirements that block the import and sale of seafood products from illegal sources, closing the EU market to illegal fish.

“Europe can be a major driver for change in the global seafood industry. The EU must deliver on its UN commitments, particularly on banning harmful fishing subsidies, and be a leader in best governance practices and international dialogues to move forward on these global issues. A sustainable choice of seafood makes a real difference for millions of people dependent on the ocean and a sustainable blue economy”, Burgess goes on to say. 

WWF calls on the EU and its Member States to show leadership to ensure sustainable fisheries governance globally and that no one is left behind in fisheries and aquaculture development.

As global hunger and malnutrition continue to escalate, fish and seafood are of unique importance to increase nutrition through the high quality protein they provide for many developing countries. Unsustainable fisheries exploitation must be significantly reduced, particularly in light of the anticipated impacts climate change is expected to have on the productivity and locations of fisheries5.

“In a rapidly changing climate and with an ever-increasing world population, the pressure exerted on our marine ecosystems and fish populations is unsustainable. Only through a shift to sustainable production and consumption will fish remain as valuable a source of nutrition and income to so many societies in the future”, concludes Burgess.
  1. FAO SOFIA report, 2018
  2. Finfish Study, 2017
  3. European Environment Agency, August 2018
  4. United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.4: end overfishing, prevent illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, halt fishing practices that are destructive to marine life, and restore fish stocks to sustainable levels by 2020.
  5. Impacts of climate change on fisheries and aquaculture, FAO 2018