A fine kettle of fish: the fishing industry and environmental impacts


• Most fishing stocks are still being exploited above sustainable levels.

• Oceans are acting as sinks for numerous human-generated environmental hazards.

• Nutrient loading or microplastics are direct threats to the quality of fish stocks.

• Climate change is rapidly changing ecological dynamics in world oceans.

• Adaptive management is needed to meet seafood demand and global food security.


Overexploitation or full exploitation of fishing stocks first became an important problem in the second half of the 20th century, with certain fisheries collapsing and others being exploited in an unsustainable manner. This situation led to dwindling fish landings worldwide, although final seafood demand has not suffered this decrease thanks to the growth of aquaculture. Currently, new threats to marine biota are emerging that could ultimately lead to further stress on fishing stocks. The current opinion paper explores these growing threats, which include the spread of dead zones throughout coastal areas, marine litter, especially micro- and nanoplastics that are ingested by marine organisms and ultimately by humans, or the effects of climate change on world oceans, including acidification due to carbon dioxide absorption from the atmosphere or alteration in ocean circulation due to melting glaciers. Consequently, it is critical for stakeholders in the fishing sector to gain awareness of what is at stake in the upcoming decades. In fact, not only will fisheries have to expand their approach from single-species stock assessment to ecosystem-based approaches, but other metrics will have to be brought forward to maintain competitiveness and minimize food security concerns.

Vázquez-Rowe I., in press. A fine kettle of fish: the fishing industry and environmental impacts. Current Opinion in Environmental Science & Health. Article (subscription required).

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