1 Living with the oceans. – A report on the state of the world's oceans


Exploiting a living resource: Fisheries
> For decades, the catch from the world’s fisheries steadily increased – with the result that many fish stocks are now classified as overexploited or depleted. Failed fisheries policies and poor fisheries management are to blame for this situation. Short-term profits appear to take priority over the development of a low-impact, sustainable fisheries sector that will remain economically viable in the long term.

Marine fisheries – the state of affairs

> Fish is an important source of food for people. It also represents an important sector of the economy: the estimated annual landed value of fish globally is around USD 90 billion. However, in many of the world’s maritime regions, perpetual overfishing is putting stocks at risk.

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The causes of overfishing

> It is now generally understood when and why fish stocks become depleted. Global demand for fish and the intensity of fishing activity are known to be key factors in this context, but ecological aspects also play an important role. The influencing variables need to be studied in more detail, however, in order to provide a conclusive explanation of the causes of overfishing.

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Classic approaches to fisheries management

> For many years, authorities have been attempting to control fishing with a variety of regulatory instruments in order to conserve stocks. These instruments include fishing quotas, limits on the number of fishing days, and restrictions on the engine power of fishing vessels. However, many of these measures fail because the quotas and restrictions introduced are not stringent enough, are not properly monitored, or because fishing practice simply ignores the regulations.

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Toward more sustainable fisheries

> In order to improve the situation and ensure that fish stocks are managed sustainably, the current approach to fisheries management urgently needs to be reformed. To protect fish stocks in the future, greater account must also be taken of the ecological linkages between various fish species and their habitats, as so far, stocks have tended to be viewed in isolation.

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Is sustainable fishing feasible?

Fishing contributes significantly to our food supply and provides a source of income for millions of people. Most fish stocks worldwide, however, have been fished to the limits of their capacity or beyond. In the interest of sustainable fishing, it would be sensible to start by applying the classic instruments used to regulate catches far more consistently than hitherto, and to enforce them more effectively. It must be borne in mind, in this context, that a quota can only be effective if it is set at a sufficiently stringent level. The basic prerequisites for a sustainable and efficient fishing industry are effective national and international institutions to establish and monitor fisheries policy. One of the greatest challenges arising in the future will be to achieve a better understanding of the connections between human influence on the ecosystems and the development of natural resources, in order to establish a sustainable and economically viable marine fisheries sector. Furthermore, successful fisheries management must take account of the economic interactions between various fisheries.
Maintaining natural resources is, ultimately, the key prerequisite for achieving long-term and sustainable revenues. Successful fisheries management will increase the profitability and productivity of the fishing industry. If stocks are given the chance to recover, this will also benefit the industry. Much higher yields could then be achieved in the long run, at greatly reduced fishing costs.