Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing costs the global economy up to $23 billion per year.
Seafood has always been an essential source of income and nutrition for people around the world.
A key driver of the global economy, fisheries contribute an estimated average of $100 billion USD annually, with seafood products being one of the most traded food commodities worldwide. The importance of seafood cannot be overstated, especially when it comes to developing countries. Of the people who derive livelihoods from fishing, 90% live in developing countries, where the net-export value of fisheries is higher than that of coffee, rice, sugar, and tea combined. Moreover, at least one billion people in developing countries rely on seafood as their primary source of protein. Unfortunately, it is these exact same countries, which depend so heavily on the ocean and all of its remarkable goods and services, that are experiencing the brunt of its degradation.
Growing market demand for seafood coupled with illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices has degraded and decimated ocean ecosystems worldwide, robbing billions of people of an invaluable source of food, income, and culture. As of 2016, illicit fishing may account for up to 26 million tons of fish a year, equal to over 15% of the world’s total annual fisheries output. With over 85% of the world’s fisheries currently classified as either fully exploited or critically overexploited, IUU fishing poses a serious threat to the future of both human and ocean life.
Technological advances and inadequate fishery management/enforcement has led to humans catching sea life faster than it’s able to recover. The use of indiscriminate gear, like nets and seines, kills large quantities of non-targeted and young fish and flattens corals as the equipment drags along the seafloor. Some destructive fishing methods, such as the use of cyanide or dynamite, are not even economically justifiable, as they cause extensive habitat damage and do not contribute to larger seafood yields. These unsustainable fishing practices have enabled the vast overfishing of commercial fish stocks and resulted in fishermen accidentally capturing and killing large quantities of un-targeted sea life, known as bycatch. Every year, an average of roughly 7.3 million tons of sea creatures are caught, killed, then just thrown away every year. Although there exist protective laws and catch limits, more than 300,000 small whales and dolphins, 100 million sharks and rays, and 250,000 loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles are killed from bycatch every year. With so many people dependent on seafood, and so many fisheries currently overexploited, the fact that so much sea life is being killed and thrown away like trash is truly a tragedy of the commons.
IUU fishing impacts not only the natural balance of ocean ecosystems, but also the socioeconomic stability and overall well-being of all dependent human communities.