A third of the world’s commercial fish species are being caught at unsustainable levels, with overfishing at its most severe in the Mediterranean and Black Sea, according to a new report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The biennial State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) report, released on Monday, said it was “worrying” that 33.1% of major commercial species were being fished to unsustainable levels, compared to just 10% 40 years ago.
In the Mediterranean and Black Sea, some 62.2% of fish stocks are being overfished, compared to 61.5% in the Southeast Pacific and 58.8% in the Southwest Atlantic.
Leading conservation NGO Oceana said overfishing poses a threat to the marine ecosystem and to the food security of billions of people around the world.
“Nobody wants a sea so familiar to many of us to have no fish for people to eat or no more jobs and livelihoods for those who depend on fishing in the region," Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of Oceana in Europe, said of the Mediterranean results.
"This shocking situation must be a wake-up call for immediate political action.”
Gustavsson called for “urgent and bold action” to deal with the issue, such as curbing bottom-trawling fishing, safeguarding areas where fish grow and setting catch limits in line with scientific advice.
The report also notes that global fish production has reached record levels, with 171 million tonnes produced in 2016, thanks to increased fish farming.
The European Union is the world’s biggest consumer of fish, followed by the US and Japan, it says.
But amid record levels of production and rising unsustainable fishing, the report notes that around a third of all fish caught go to waste, typically by either being thrown back overboard or rotting before it can be consumed.
Among its recommendations, the FAO called on countries to reduce the amount of fish being discarded at sea, and for greater efforts in stopping the overfishing of wild stocks.