Empty Oceans

Written by: Tom Edwards

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How would you feel diving into an ocean where a fear of sharks, or even fish in general was no longer a concern? Our oceans becoming empty of any edible fish is a grim matter globally.

World fish stocks are declining, with imminent threats to many economies and societies, especially in 3rd world countries. If this decline continues it will lead to increasing fish prices, malnutrition in developing countries and even corruption of ecosystems within our ocean.

There are multiple reasons causing of this declining fish supply:

  • A lack off right to areas of the oceans for fishing, as boundaries between individuals, companies, governments and countries are difficult to define.
  • Low knowledge of fish supplies available in many countries, as fish counts by fisherman are either not done or are not 100% accurate as the sea is so massive
  • External sources of depletion not accounted for by fisherman, such as fish reproduction/growth time, overfishing and other fisherman fishing in the same areas.
  • Pollution, a 2015 study estimated 4.8-12.7 million tonnes of plastic entered the ocean in 2010 alone, all of which can cause adverse effects on food chains globally, reducing fish stocks 1.

Overfishing may be the main player in this decline. Large amounts of fisheries have quotas much too high for the species size and reproduction/growth rate to keep up at sustainable rates. Yes, there may be exceptions to the rule such as New Zealand’s Sealord which uses sustainable fishing practises in line with the New Zealand Governments code of conduct, but there are still many fisheries around the world that are ruining the future of fishing within our oceans.

Species such as the Californian Sardine and the Orange Roughy are example species which have already been completely overfished as their numbers and reproduction rate were not monitored enough, we do not want this to happen to any other species. Many different species of fish are seriously endangered, including the many species of tuna, salmon and shark, shark is largely caught to make shark fin soup in Asian countries, sometimes the sharks are released but die as they cannot swim properly without their dorsal fin2. Fishing of these species is not the only concern to their populations, overfishing of fish lower down the food chain such as herring, anchovies and mackerel (with these fish being 3 of the 5 most caught fish in the world by weight) reduces the amount of food available to tuna, salmon and other higher food chain members in the ocean. It is impossible to predict when the collapse of fisheries will occur due to changing populations, policies and fish abundances constantly 3.

This unsustainable fishing can be reduced by;

  • Reducing quotas to more suitable levels, especially for species like the Atlantic salmon, which are seriously endangered 4.
  • Reduce pollution entering our oceans so life is not affected, as fish are injured or poisoned by ingesting plastic, and plastics in surviving fish can find their way into humans if eaten as well, causing illness.
  • Make more well defined and even restricted fishing areas, although this is very difficult to police.

I would like my fear of sharks to still be a real concern in the future, and want to dive into an ocean abundant with fish.



  1. Jambeck, J. R., Geyer, R., Wilcox, C., Siegler, T. R., Perryman, M., Andrady, A., … & Law, K. L. (2015). Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science, 347(6223), 768-771.
  2. Endangered and Threatened Marine Species under NMFS’ Jurisdiction. (2018, January 29). Retrieved from NOAA FISHERIES: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/esa/listed.htm#fish
  3. Pauly, D., Hilborn, R., & Branch, T. A. (2013). Fisheries: does catch reflect abundance?. Nature494(7437), 303.
  4. Nicola, G. G., Elvira, B., Jonsson, B., Ayllón, D., & Almodóvar, A. (2018). Local and global climatic drivers of Atlantic salmon decline in southern Europe. Fisheries Research198, 78-85.