Pole and line tuna and baitfish fishery project, Indonesia. Bitung, Sulawesi, Indonesia. © Paul Hilton / IPNLF / WWF-Aus

Pole and line tuna and baitfish fishery project, Indonesia. Bitung, Sulawesi, Indonesia. © Paul Hilton / IPNLF / WWF-Aus


Billions of people around the world rely on fish as a source of protein and fishing is the principal livelihood of millions. Maintaining the balance of exquisite life in our oceans is just as critical to life on land.

But many of the world's fisheries have been pushed beyond their biological limits. Some are even at the point of collapse. Overfishing is a major problem globally, due largely to poor fisheries management and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Fisheries management is very complicated, across national and international jurisdictions, and often out of sight in the deep sea. However, out of sight is not out of mind. We're working with some of the best minds in ocean conservation to protect our oceans and to restore fish stocks. Because there are not plenty more fish in the sea.



New WWF analysis suggests that 85% of global fish stocks are at risk of IUU fishing. It's estimated that IUU fishing accounts for 10-31% of the global fish catch, valued at US$10-23.5 billion annually. This haul risks the sustainability of target fish, as well as the myriad other marine species that comprise the ocean's complex food webs. It also threatens the viability of legal fishing operations and therefore the economic and social well-being of coastal communities. In turn, this jeopardises the world’s seafood security.

The global fishing fleet is 2.5 times larger than what the oceans can sustainably support. Natural fish reproduction can simply not keep up with the demand. As a result, 24% of fish species are overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion; 52% of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited and have no ability to produce greater harvests; and several important commercial fish populations have declined to the point of being threatened.

What we're doing

As always, globally and locally, WWF is forming alliances and working with partners to reduce the impacts of overfishing our oceans. 





Overfishing continues because our precious marine resources are poorly managed. Current regulations are not strong enough to limit fishing to sustainable levels and even where laws do exist, they are inadequately enforced.

Poorly arranged Fisheries Partnership Agreements allow foreign fleets to overfish in the waters of developing countries, and pirate fishers are sophisticated and active. In fact, IUU fishing occurs across all types of fisheries, within national and international waters.

Technological advances have made large-scale fishing easier, and government subsidies have kept too many unsustainable fishers on the water. A lack of sound fisheries conservation and management in many parts of the world also means that the impacts of overfishing are poorly understood.

Just 1.6% of the world's oceans have been declared marine protected areas (MPAs) and fishing is allowed in 90% of them. MPAs protect habitats such as coral reefs from destructive fishing practices, provide refuge for endangered species and are designed to allow depleted fish populations to recover. Fishing that targets top-order predators like tuna and groupers can disrupt the delicate balance of entire marine communities.

Yellow fin tuna shoal caught 275ft purse seiner fishing nets. © naturepl.com / Doc White / WWF

© naturepl.com / Doc White / WWF


How you can help

Be a responsible seafood consumer and ask for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) independently certified seafood.


Recommended reading

Pole and line tuna and baitfish fishery project, Indonesia. Bitung, Sulawesi, Indonesia. May 2016 © Paul Hilton / IPNLF / WWF-Aus


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