The fishing sector is facing a crisis of global dimensions. Too many boats are hunting too many fish, using techniques which are far too efficient. When fishstocks were getting exhausted along the coast, one started to fish further and further. When it seemed that in that place there was less fish to find, the fishing sector started to search in ever deeper waters. By using sonar and satellite systems to detect schools of fish, the fish and other sea animals can no longer hide for the fishing boats, causing overexploitation, huge bycatches and harm to the ecosystem.

According to food- and agriculture organization (FAO) 80% of fishstocks are fully or overexploited. One third of these stocks can poosibly never recover. Hence many fish species are being threatened with extinction. During the last century populations of cod, tuna, sharks and swordfish have shrunk by more than 90%. If we continue like that, according to scientists, the seas will be empty by 2050 and hardly any commercial fish species will be left. In Europe an average of 88% of the fishstocks is overfished. In the Northsea most of the fishspecies have already disappeared in the fishing nets at the age of five, while some species can naturally reach the age of 25 to 50 years. 93% of the Northseacod gets caught before it gets the chance to breed.

The North Sea fish stocks are looking fundamentally different than let’s say 150 years ago. Once giant tuna were swimming in the Northsea, caviar was harvested and oyster beds were stretching over kilometers. But overfishing is not a recent phenomenon. Before 1900 there were already signs of overexploitation on the sea. Explorers in the New World already went to look for new unexploited fishing grounds. So it’s no coincidence that the European colonies used to settle at the American coasts near the rich fishing grounds. But modern technology now enables us to trace even the last living fish. Moreover the fishing sector is heavily subsidized. Yearly, no less than 30 billion dollar subsidies are given worldwide. Without these subsidies a lot of fishing boats would disappear because they are not profitable enough, striking fishermen and their families.


  • Copejans, Evy & Michiel Smits. 2011. De wetenschap van de zee: Over een onbekende wereldoceaan. Acco.
  • Winkel, Dos (red.). 2010. De Huilende Zee. Elmar Uitgeverij.
  • UNEP. 2010. Green Economy Report: A Preview. UNEP.
  • FAO. 2008. State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture. FAO.
  • Worm, B. Et al. 2006. Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services. Science 314: 757-760.
  • Documentaire: Sea the Truth

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