The Beacon

Blog Tags: Overfishing

Friday Infographic: Fishing Down the Food Chain

This is the second in a series of ocean infographics by artist Don Foley. These infographics also appear in Oceana board member Ted Danson’s book, “Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them.”  

With shark week fast approaching, how about a shark-related infographic to whet your appetite?

Today’s infographic illustrates how overfishing fundamentally alters ocean ecosystems, leading to fewer and smaller fish over time.

Infographic by Don Foley

If overfishing isn’t stopped, the largest fish like sharks, tuna, cod, and salmon eventually run out and overfishing expands to previously untargeted, smaller spe­cies, some of which were considered undesirable. As a result, the world catch is now primarily made up of small fish like pollock rather than large predators like grouper, and this shift to smaller and smaller species over time is called “fishing down the food chain.”


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Q&A with Author Mark Kurlansky

Mark Kurlansky with his 10-year-old daughter Talia.

The latest issue of Oceana magazine is now available; check it out for features about Ted Danson’s new book, our new sea turtle spokesladies and Patagonia’s threatened waters.

Also in this issue is a Q&A with author Mark Kurlansky, whose 1997 international bestseller Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World is a seminal work of non-fiction about overfishing.

I spoke to him about his new book, The World Without Fish: How Kids Can Help Save the Oceans, which explains the current crisis in the oceans in easy-to-digest language and graphics, and outlines how kids can help.

What inspired you to write The World Without Fish?

MK: I’ve been writing about fish for many years. I talk to kids about it a lot and I noticed a few things. They are tremendously interested, partly because kids just really like fish. We’re raising a generation with a great sense of environmental urgency; they want to know about these things. It’s a very complicated thing, much more complicated than it’s often presented. Consequently, kids are perplexed about what’s going on. So I thought I would explain it.

Has your daughter read the book? Is she interested in ocean issues?

MK: Yes, she has. It’s a very ambitious book for kids, and I wanted to know about anything she found difficult or hard to understand. She’s really into it. She’s my fishing buddy. We spend our summers in Gloucester fishing for striper.

What do you hope kids (and adults) take from your book?

I’d like them to appreciate the complexity of the issue to understand that it’s not that people aren’t doing anything -- a lot’s being done, but they’re still struggling to figure out what works. I wouldn’t mind them coming away with a little respect for fishermen and their struggles with the issue. This all can be turned around and if it isn’t, it will be a huge disaster.


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Oceana’s Expedition Shows Need to Protect the Baltic

As a part of European Maritime Day, today Oceana’s team in the Baltic released some initial findings from the ongoing expedition. They presented guidelines for the protection of the Baltic Sea, including rules for sustainable fisheries management, habitat protection and ending harmful fishing subsidies.

The expedition team has been documenting the incredible biodiversity of the Baltic; check out the latest photos - from beautiful nudibranchs to grey seals to a dead jellyfish in the oxygen-deprived bottom of the deepest part of the Baltic:

These photos reveal the impact of pollution, overfishing and destructive fishing practices on the Baltic, but they also show areas with healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity, providing a window into what the Baltic Sea could look like if Marine Protected Areas are expanded and well-protected, and if laws and regulations are fully enforced.

Studies have shown that such enhanced protection measures and more stringent management of fish resources would benefit fishermen and local communities dependent on fisheries, as well as at-risk ecosystems.

Stay tuned for more from our team in the Baltic!


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Protecting Costa Rica’s Biodiversity

A collared aracari on Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Sometimes our supporters point out organizations that are doing inspiring work for the oceans around the world. Thanks to supporter Joanna Adler for alerting us to the great work of an organization in Costa Rica called CIRENAS.

The Center of Investigation for Natural and Social Resources, or CIRENAS, is an organization that co-manages the Caletas Ario Nature Reserve, which is located on one of the last undeveloped stretches of coastline on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula.


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Ted Enlightens Jimmy Fallon about 'Oceana'

Our pal Ted Danson was on Jimmy Fallon last night to talk about his new book, “Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them.” I’m not sure why Fallon decided to turn the lights off, but it makes for quite a dramatic effect when Ted is talking about the book. Check it out:


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Oceana Hosts WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy and Oceana's senior vice president for North America, Mike Hirshfield. © Oceana/Michael King

Oceana welcomed a very distinguished visitor yesterday. We hosted the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Pascal Lamy, along with representatives of 10 major U.S. environmental organizations in a roundtable discussion at our headquarters in Washington, D.C. The roundtable focused on promoting an open and active dialogue about trade and the environment and the WTO’s ability to address both.

The WTO is currently engaged in a dedicated negotiation on fisheries subsidies as part of the Doha Round. These negotiations are historic because they are the first time that conservation considerations, in addition to commerce priorities, have led to the launch of a specific trade negotiation.

Fishing subsidies promote overfishing by pushing fleets to fish longer, harder and farther away than would otherwise be economically feasible. Overfishing subsidies are estimated to be at least $20 billion annually, an amount equal to approximately 25 percent of the value of the world catch.


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UN Report: No Improvement in Global Overfishing

The world’s appetite for fish continues to grow. Fish stocks, though? Not so much. 

That’s the bottom line from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, which released its latest State of the World's Fisheries and Aquaculture report yesterday. Global per capita consumption of fish reached a "new all-time high" in 2008.

Here are some of the facts from the report:

  • Fish consumption increased to an estimated 17.1 kilograms per person in 2008, up from 16.9 kilograms in 2007.
  • Fisheries and aquaculture support the livelihoods of an estimated 540 million people, roughly 8 percent of the world's population.
  • Much of the increase is due to fish farming, which is set to overtake fisheries as the main source of seafood.
  • In the early 1950s, aquaculture production was less than one million tonnes per year; in 2008 it was 52.5 million tonnes worth $98.4 billion US, the report authors said.
  • There has been no improvement in the level of global fish stocks -- the overall percentage of overfished, depleted or recovering stocks is expected to be slightly higher than in 2006.
  • Slightly more than half of the world's fisheries were estimated to be "fully exploited," meaning their current catches are "at or close to their maximum sustainable productions, with no room for further expansion."
  • About 32 per cent of world fish stocks are estimated to be overexploited, depleted or recovering and need to be rebuilt, the report said.

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As ICCAT Begins, Bluefin Hangs in the Balance

Yesterday the 17th Special Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) began in Paris, France. Oceana is in Paris with this simple message for the ICCAT delegates: Restore depleted bluefin tuna and shark populations.

Oceana’s chief scientist and head-of-delegation Dr. Michael Hirshfield had this to say as the meeting commenced:

“We can not continue to let the demand for sharks and bluefin tuna drive these populations toward extinction. Immediate and proper international management is needed now or we will empty the oceans of these top predators and vastly change the oceans as we know them today… Oceana hopes the next ten days are not wasted playing ‘politics.’ The science is clear and it is time to get to work.”

And you can help us put the pressure on -- tell the US and EU delegates at ICCAT to increase protections for sharks and bluefin tuna!

For more info about ICCAT, bluefin tuna, sharks, swordfish and sea turtles, and for downloadable images, check out http://oceana.org/ICCAT. We’ll keep you posted as the meeting goes on.


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Tuna-fy Yourself!

Spanish singer Miguel Bose, bluefin tuna-fied.

If you thought bluefin tuna were just another faceless fish, you thought wrong. Not only are they some of the fastest and most impressive predators in the ocean, they are also in serious trouble from overfishing.

In a few weeks, the world will have a chance to change bluefin’s fate, and we are asking you all to spread the word – by putting your face on this threatened fish. How, you ask? Well, our colleagues in Europe just launched a website, www.stoptunablues.org, where you can do just that.

From November 17-27th, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) will meet in Paris. ICCAT is an international body responsible for the conservation and management of bluefin, and Oceana will be in Paris to pressure the Commission to do more to protect bluefin.  

Bluefin may not be as cuddly as panda bears, but you are – so help us save bluefin by offering your (incredibly attractive) likeness to the cause, and then spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and any other way you want!


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A Stimulus Package for the Oceans: Deconstruction

This is the second in a series of four guest posts by Paul Greenberg, author of the bestselling book, Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food.

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing James Prosek's excellent Eels for the New York Times Book Review.  An endlessly interesting topic but most relevant for today's oceanic fisheries because of the unseen (and largely fixable) problem eels represent: the useless damming of small rivers around the country and around the world. 

Rivers are key to oceans: they allow for energy transfer between freshwater ecosystems and saltwater, and the primary way they do that is through "diadromous" i.e. sea run fish like salmon, herring, shad, and yes, eels.


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