Feedback from more than 70,000 vessels shows commercial fishing covers a greater surface area than agriculture and will raise fresh questions about the health of oceans and sustainability of trawler fishing. The data also helps to explain the extreme decline in some fish stocks: the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says one-third of commercial fish stocks are being caught at unsustainable levels.
The report’s author, David Kroodsma said, “What that means is we have control as humans to decide how we’re fishing the oceans: we’re not destined to overfish, we can control it.”
Just five countries account for 85% of commercial fishing measured by hours at sea. Half of that is China; other large-scale operators include Spain, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan (with a population of just 23 million.)
On average, every person on the planet eats 20kg of fish each year, with the FAO’s own estimates suggesting this makes up 6.7% to 17% of protein eaten. The figure is much higher in some developing countries, however, where people on islands and in coastal areas rely heavily on fish for their energy, up to 70% of protein in some cases.