Development and Globalization: Facts and Figures2016 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

Target 14.4: Harvesting and overfishing

By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics.
29% of fish stock overfished in 2014, biologically unsustainable.

Achieving this target will be a challenge. The most conservative estimates suggest that illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing on the high seas, affecting species such as tunas and sharks, is worth US$1.25 billion annually (Global Ocean Commission, 2014). However, IUU fishing also affects areas within national jurisdiction. If exclusive economic zones (EEZs) are included, the estimated value of IUU fishing rises to between US$10 billion and US$23.5 billion annually (Global Ocean Commission, 2014). This represents a mean global loss of approximate 18 per cent in volume across all fisheries (Global Ocean Commission, 2014). Moreover, the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have estimated that the economic benefits from global fisheries are much smaller owing to net economic losses estimated at roughly US$50 billion a year (World Bank and FAO, 2009).

Various legal, policy and management tools and measures have been taken at national, regional and international levels to combat IUU fishing. The application of these schemes, especially stringent requirements, and measurement of contribution depends heavily on financial, administrative and technical capacities of nations with fishing resources. These countries also participate in regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs)Regional fisheries management organizations or arrangements (RFMOs or RFMAs) exist in the majority of high seas areas that have major deep-sea fisheries.
and have their own fish stocks management plans to ensure stocks are maintained at sustainable levels. However, the marine species covered, and capacities for implementing, monitoring and enforcing these plans are not homogenous and in many cases insufficient.

Figure 14.2. Global trends in the state of the world marine fish stocks, 1974-2011 (Percentage of stocks assessed) Download data
Figure 14.2: Area chart
Source: FAO (2014)

Actions to regulate harvesting and end overfishing are timely and appropriate as fish stocks are under intense pressure. FAO estimated that in 2011 close to 90 per cent of the world’s marine fish stocks were fully fished or overfished (FAO, 2014).

This implies that the capacity for recovery in several species is low or inexistent. Contributing factors to the precarious fish stocks situation includes the excess fishing capacity presently deployed (driven by various factors, including subsidies and IUU fishing).

The Inter-agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDG) selected the proportion of fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels as the appropriate indicator for target 14.4. FAO has maintained and reported on this indicator since 1974 and data can be retrieved from FAO FishStatJ.

FAO estimated that in 2011, 28.8 per cent of fish stocks were estimated as fished at a biologically unsustainable level14.2 and therefore overfished (see figure 14.2).