Turns Out We’re Overfishing Even More than We Thought

(Image credit: Rich Carey)shutterstock

It goes without saying that overfishing is an ongoing environmental concern. As populations dwindle, oceanic ecosystems are set off-kilter — increasingly unbalanced and unhealthy.

Unfortunately, the amount of fish we’re pulling from the water might be higher than anyone ever imagined. According to a recent study published in Nature Communications, the total catch taken from the world’s oceans may be 53 percent higher than what has been officially reported to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization — for decades.

The study argues that the official numbers only reflect the catches of large-scale fisheries, ignoring the combined impact of small fisheries, bycatch, and other sources.

Surely, this is not good news, but University of Washington Professor Trevor Branch made an important note in response to the study, commenting that ”catches only tell us what we take out, not what the status of the remaining fish is.” It’s true that the ocean might not be any worse off than already thought as a result of these findings, but the fact remains that something needs to be done in order to reverse the ecological damage we’ve caused.

So what can you, as a consumer, do to help? In short: Be a smart shopper. Ask your fish monger to suggest a sustainable choice, or do some searching yourself on the Montery Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. They even have an app so you can compare options while you’re at the store, which is what I often end up doing. Need an easier option? Add some of the recipes from our roundup of 9 Sustainable Seafood Recipes to your shopping list.