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Overfishing and the Global Response

Updated: Mar 15

Overfishing has become one of the world’s largest environmental problems. The world relies on oceans and their vast sources of life and nourishment. But these resources are being strained as constant fishing takes its toll.

A low-end estimate predicts that 80% of the world’s fisheries are being overfished every single year. There are three billion people who rely on seafood as their main source of protein. When oceans are overfished, serious food security problems arise for the international community. As many countries have invested in large-scale fishing, the population of fish drastically reduces each year; reproduction rates aren’t fast enough to keep up with the demand of the human population. Overfishing has become one of the world’s major environmental problems, with little being done by IGOs to regulate or stop it.

Overfishing and extreme use of fish caches throughout the world’s oceans are exploited without proper examination or administration. This has led to a general shrinking population of fish. This environmental problem could have devastating consequences if not dealt with quickly.

This may seem like an issue that only concerns the 3 billion people who rely on seafood, but it isn't: fish are a dietary staple throughout the world and a major source of industry. The urgency of this problem has led to some focused regulations from individual states and the global community. But these measures face criticism from those whose catch is limited by fishing regulations. Further, not all fishing is recorded or managed. There are many “pirate fishermen” that illegally fish, causing unregulated imports and sales. 

One regional example is Southeast Asia, with more than half the globe's fishing vessels concentrated in the South China Sea. An area historically reliant on fish for protein, Southeast Asia is ridden with illegal, unreported and overdone fishing. With every passing year, the region is yielding fewer results as fish caches run lower.

United Nations experts recommend that Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei and Indonesia all work together to make sure that fish stocks aren’t being compromised and food, security and income are all regulated to ensure the lasting survival of fish sustenance in the region. If Southeast Asia does experience major fish shortages in the future, it will be the response of the international community that lifts this region out of starvation. If one region fails to ensure the longevity of fish in the ocean, it will immediately become a global issue for the rest of the international community.

It's proven difficult to solve overfishing with collective action. Some states, especially low-income ones, rely much more than others on fishing as their main source of protein. Fishing is easy for low-income countries. It tends to be convenient and cheap compared to farming and ranching.

As such, anti-overfishing resolutions have been difficult to initiate; many states simply ignore calls from the international community to ease up on fishing. This problem has some high tensions attached to it as well, considering that food is a necessity. The international community has made calls to end starvation, but some would argue that reducing fishing would only exacerbate this problem and leave millions lacking a main source of their diet.

Overfishing continues to be a secondary concern for many in the international community and only a few states in the international system have set regulations in place to stop or prevent it.

As the ocean is collectively shared, specific regions are more vulnerable than others and pose a great threat to much of the oceanic wildlife that thrives in their waters. Food security continues to be an international issue, and if steps are not taken to combat overfishing, we could soon see this problem escalate into never-before-seen territory.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


Warfield, S. (2020). The issue of overfishing in the United States. University of

The ASEAN Post. (2018) The Threat of Overfishing.

Global Leading Fishing Nations. (2018). Statista. Retrieved April 4, 2023, from

Faith, J. (1996) Enforcement of Fishing Regulations in International Waters: Piracy orProtection, Is Gunboat Diplomacy the Only Means Left, 19 Loy. L.A. Int'l & Comp. L.Rev. 199. Available at:

United Nations. General Assembly Adopts Resolution regarding Sustainable Fisheries,Postpones Action on law of Sea Convention, awaiting input concerning text’s budgetimplications. (2020). Retrieved April 7, 2023, from


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