New evidence from a collaborative study involving more than 500 fisheries experts globally shows that half of the world’s 1400 assessed fish stocks are now overfished – rather than just over a third, as previously understood.
Nearly a tenth of fish stocks globally are now on the brink of collapse, reduced to just 10 per cent of their original size, the report finds.
This world-first assessment of the sustainability of marine fisheries in 142 coastal states is an unflinching analysis that combines data on fish stock health and governance to assess the state of fisheries at a national level – with countries given a grade from ‘A’ through ‘F’.
Even the best-performing countries – those that are supposedly leading the way – receive no higher than a ‘C’ grade, while Australia receives a ‘D’, with 38% of its assessed fish stocks classified as ‘overfished’ and 60% of the total catch in Australia’s waters from unassessed, data-lacking stocks.
Viet Nam and Malaysia, which are also among the ten biggest fishing countries in the world, receive an “F” grade, along with 18 other countries – the lowest possible.
Minderoo Foundation Chairman Dr Andrew Forrest AO said the report found no country, not even the best, is doing anywhere near enough to protect the ocean from overfishing and restore its health to a flourishing state.
“Half of the world’s assessed fish stocks are overfished and nearly 10 per cent are on the point of collapse – threatening not only ocean ecosystems but also the livelihoods and food security of millions of people,” Dr Forrest said.
“Our Global Fishing Index is a wake-up call to governments and businesses around the world. It is a message to say that we know what is happening, we know what you are doing, and we are here to help fix the problem.
“My message to all 142 of the countries, both developed and developing, is clear. It is time to take accountability for the health of your fisheries, the size of your fishing fleets and the level of access provided to foreign fleets to fish your waters.
“Every single country in this index needs stronger fisheries management, better laws and policies, better enforcement, better data collection, more science-based decisions.
Global Fishing Index program lead Dr Kendra Thomas Travaille said that the lack of available information on fisheries is concerning.
“We lack basic data on 52 per cent of the world’s marine catch. This problem is due to a lack of fisheries monitoring, compounded by a lack of transparency among governments and fishing companies about their fishing activities.”
“Of even greater concern is that in many countries where local communities rely on fisheries for their livelihoods, food, and nutrition – the data on coastal fish stocks are missing altogether,” Dr Thomas Travaille said. “This represents a huge gap, and it’s essential that we help build capacity to manage and monitor these stocks so that they can be fished sustainably for future generations.”
Minderoo Flourishing Oceans Initiative CEO Dr Tony Worby said the primary goal of the Global Fishing Index is to provide an evidence base to improve fisheries regulations and help return fish stocks to sustainable levels.
“The Global Fishing Index provides a road map of recommendations and solutions to address this problem that will guide Minderoo’s philanthropic efforts over the coming decade,” Dr Worby said.
“While the issues and strategies will be very different for each country, all countries need to set ambitious targets to recover overfished stocks and report on their progress,” Dr Worby said. “We are now calling on governments and businesses to declare their intent and demonstrate action to reverse fisheries decline.”
CEO of Conservation International Dr. M. Sanjayan said the Minderoo Foundation’s Global Fishing Index reveals a massive blind spot in national conservation strategies.
“— but, as we all know, it’s hard to address problems if you can’t measure them,” Dr Sanjayan said. “We’re hopeful that the Index will help usher in a new era of rigorous, science-based oversight of vital coastal fisheries, which employ 9 out of 10 people in the fisheries sector and support hundreds of millions of people. Conservation International works in over 20 countries on fisheries policy, responsible business, and sustainable production — and we look forward to partnering with key stakeholders to turn this alarm bell into decisive action.”
This report is the first from an ongoing study that will measure country-level progress towards the global target set by the United Nations. The UN Sustainable Development Goal (14.4), established in 2015, aims to effectively manage fisheries, end overfishing and restore fish stocks to sustainable levels. However, this new report shows that the commitment from global leaders to achieve this goal by 2020 is still far from being met.
The Minderoo Foundation believes the Global Fishing Index will quickly establish itself as a new mechanism for countries and their governments and corporations to be recognised for turning good intentions into meaningful action, and to track their progress.
The summary report can be accessed here alongside data visualisations, data for download, maps, technical information, and case studies of fisheries management approaches in Mexico, the United States, Canada, Timor Leste and states of the South China Sea. More information will be added over time.
Established by Andrew and Nicola Forrest in 2001, we are a modern philanthropic organisation seeking to break down barriers, innovate and drive positive, lasting change. Minderoo Foundation is proudly Australian, with key initiatives spanning from ocean research and ending slavery, to collaboration in cancer and community projects.