Hook, line and trawler Overfishing peril: Global accord aims to give greater protection to endangered table fish.

November 24, 1998

TOO MANY fishing boats, too few fish. Too much wasteful, subsidized ocean trawler fishing. Too little regulation of open-ocean fisheries, too much destruction of spawning stock and habitat.

The result may be an imminent collapse in the world's ocean fisheries, where two-thirds of the major target species are fully fished or overfished. Tuna, swordfish and cod are some of the popular table fish that need urgent attention to undo the damage of world over-catches.

But the global catch continues to grow, and government subsidies of $10 billion to $20 billion a year accelerate fleet


Capacity of the giant factory trawlers is 250 percent more than necessary to meet the world need for fish; profits per boat are down 50 percent since 1970. The result is wasteful competition and rapid depletion of vital fisheries. Within 10 years, annual world catch is expected to exceed the oceans' ability to sustain fishery stocks.

To reverse these dangerous trends, some 80 countries last month signed an international action plan that calls for reducing sea fishing capacity, identifying endangered species, establishing national and global management plans and continuing evaluation of stocks.

Accidental catches of sea birds and sharks by fisher nets and hook lines is also addressed.

The United States has been a leader in fisheries management and managing capacity of its fishing fleet (which is still 300 percent too large). Japan plans a 20-percent cut in its deep-sea tuna fishing fleet by March. China, with one-third of the world's open-seas fleet, remains a problem.

Strong international commitment is essential to sensible global management of open-water fish, which easily swim across human political boundaries.

Pub Date: 11/24/98

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