Exploitation of the east coast - The Effects of Overfishing Across the Eastern US Seaboard -

an Introduction to overfishing

Many organizations such as the Endangered Seas Campaign and Greenpeace Ocean Campaign are trying to combat the global issue of overfishing

Across the U.S. East Coast, overfishing is dramatically affecting the ocean ecosystem and the fishing industry. Overfishing refers to the depletion and degradation of the ocean ecosystem and the fish species that are caught for food, by oversized, unregulated, and unsustainable fishing methods. Simply put, overfishing depletes the ocean’s fish populations so greatly, that the populations cannot reproduce fast enough to keep their population at a sustainable level.

Overfishing has dramatically changed the fishing industry along the east coast, particularly in the new England and Floridian/gulf waters

"$15.2 million in the Southeast [and] $149 million in New England was lost by commercial fishermen due to decades of overfishing" - The Pew Charitable Trusts

research question

Overfishing is known to pose risks to fish stocks and thus, availability of fish for consumption. Other than catch limits, what else can be done?


Why are these techniques still being used and why isn't overfishing a major concern?


Numerous articles from science journals and website organizations that have supported the position that overfishing is a serious threat to the ocean’s ecosystem, the fishing industry, and the local economy and jobs. The consensus among these sources emphasize a few critical points:

Overfishing is depleting the ocean of a vital renewable resource that provides employment to one of the largest divisions in the food industry.

The techniques of overfishing are destructive to the marine environment. Nets bring up enormous amounts of non-target species (bycatch) which threaten fish, mammals and other marine life even though they are not the target catch. Methods such as bottom trawling drag heavy weighted nets that roll through and crush fragile reef structures and other necessary components of a healthy ocean ecosystem.

Overfishing is operating at such a massive and profitable scale, making it a difficult problem to confront. If no changes are made in this destructive process, the degradation of the ocean will leave many people and businesses in the fishing industry unemployed and the ocean significantly depleted of its biodiversity and health.

"According to a new report commissioned by the Pew Environment Group, they reveal that in 2009 alone, a staggering $164.2 million was lost by commercial fishermen due to decades of overfishing. In that year, just 25 percent of potential revenue was realized" - The Pew Charitable Trusts

To answer my question "overfishing is known to pose risks to fish stocks and thus, availability of fish for consumption. Other than catch limits, what else can be done?" I will try to find websites and scholarly articles that talk about the solutions to the issue of overfishing. I will also look for organizations that are fighting overfishing and see what they are doing to stop overfishing.

Overfishing is causing the depletion of a vital resource that sustains ocean health and is responsible for 1.7 million U.S. jobs. Fishing is important for the balance of marine population and is an important job industry for many coastal Americans. However, this has become an issue simply because it is unregulated, unnatural, and largely excessive.

Who does overfishing impact? Overfishing is directly responsible for degrading the ecosystem along the East Coast (environmental impact). It's also responsible for crippling local fishing businesses that generate revenue from the waters that are no longer yielding enough profit to stay in business (local impact). Since overfishing is also a global issue, if the destructive course of this industry is not changed, there could be serious consequences of economic loss, unemployment, food availability and environmental degradation.

Overfishing has become a global issue, scaling much farther out than U.S. waters.

time line

I am planning to find more scientific articles and ocean conservation groups to include in my research within the given project work time. Talking to biology and environmental science professors around campus as well as some local fishermen back home could also provide greater insight to this issue.

"Not surprisingly, it has been reported that industrial fishing takes between only 10 and 15 years to wipe out a tenth of whichever species it targets (2). In fact, several marine species have already been fished to commercial extinction, and this number is rapidly increasing" - Dartmouth undergraduate journal of science


- The End of the Line -

"The World Bank and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that overfishing might cost the world roughly $50 billion (US) a year in net economic losses" - FAO

The key challenges related to the issue of overfishing are due to the connection between the economy and the ecosystem. Overfishing has given jobs to millions of people all over the world, so when cuts are made in the industry, it affects a lot of people. It's difficult to regulate the industry when it's such an integral source of food in many developing countries. The EU has begun to take steps towards solving this issue, passing catch limit regulations and enforcing corporate fishing.

"Fish stocks are a vital resource to human populations. Not only are they a renewable resource, but they provide a variety of benefits including food and recreational pleasure, as well as supporting livelihoods. At present, however, pressures from illegal and/or unsustainable fishing, coupled with climate change, changing land-use patterns, population growth and other stressors, are contributing to declines in fish stocks" - Hesselgrave, Kruse, Sheeran

Although overfishing directly effects the environment that is overfished and the communities that surround these areas, the economic loss and environmental deterioration can have effects all over the world.

Awareness, regulation, enforcement and government support of this issue are the best approach to engage and change the cataclysmic course of the fishing industry. The destructive fishing techniques must be drastically reduced or stopped, and the government must help stand against this issue. I hope my project will assist in creating awareness of the local, global and environmental issue of overfishing.

Chase Sanders English 1030


Created with images by Skullman - "fishing boat fishermen port" • N Stjerna - "Fish" • Derek Keats - "Inside a cod trap looking up." • ahisgett - "Rockland Fishing Boats" • stroller - "trawler fishing river tyne" • Larry and Linda - "Fishing 011" • adactio - "Fish" • panadolmomo - "Fish" • NOAA Photo Library - "reef1448" • rizitis - "fisherman" • jalthouse - "boat shrimp boat coastal" • 931527 - "netting fishing fisherman" • SEDACMaps - "Overfishing" • Bien Stephenson - "Colorful Fish Market" • Bien Stephenson - "Fish market" • 2554813 - "trawler net fishing" • apnear40 - "sea fishing water" • Graham Cook - "Coming home to Yamba" • photo-graphe - "fish fishing traditional fishing" • r.mcminds - "20140730--IMG_4454.jpg"

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