Ocean Science Summary: Overfishing Trends and the Global Food Crisis

Fish are a vital source of nourishment, especially to people in the world's poorest nations. Widespread overfishing has led to a decline in catch globally; however, the links between overfishing and food security have not been well-understood.

Thara Srinivasan of the Pacific Eco-informatics and Computational Ecology Lab, Rashid Sumaila of the University of British Columbia and their collaborators assessed potential losses, globally and regionally, in fisheries catch (reported landings) and revenue (landed, or dockside, value of the catch) resulting from overfishing. They found a third to a half of commercial marine species had been overfished during the past half-century, with billions in potential revenue lost. By placing country-level catch loss trends in the context of undernourishment levels in many of the world's poorest countries, the authors estimated that in 2000 the additional catch from sustainable fishing could have helped 20 million people cover their food deficit and avert undernourishment.

Ocean Science Summary: Overfishing Trends and the Global Food Crisis

Using midlevel criteria, the authors declared a species-EEZ pair as overfished if, after the year of maximum catch, the species stock fell to 50 percent of its maximum level for at least 10 successive years, or 15 in total from 1950 to 2004.

This Pew Ocean Science Series report is a summary of the scientists' findings.

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Rebecca Goldburg

Director, Ocean Science

Rebecca Goldburg joined Pew in 2008 as director of Pew's Ocean Science Division, focusing on support for marine conservation research, including the Lenfest Ocean Program, the Sea Around Us project and the Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation.Before joining Pew, Goldburg was a senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a national nonprofit research and advocacy organization, where she worked for 20 years. There, she focused on scientific and public policy issues of fish farming, especially the massive use of wild caught fish in feed for farmed fish. At EDF, Goldburg also worked to increase market demand for more sustainably produced seafood through partnerships with several major corporate purchasers of seafood. She served on the Marine Aquaculture Task Force established by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and The Pew Charitable Trusts, which released recommendations on U.S. aquaculture policy in 2007. Goldburg also co-authored the Pew Oceans Commission's report on marine aquaculture.She holds a bachelor's degree in statistics from Princeton University and a master's degree in statistics and a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Minnesota. View Profile