August 23rd, 2005
Data: Statistics, Global, and Seafood
Oceans cover 70.8% of planet Earth.
Global consumption of seafood products has doubled over the past 30 years, driven by population growth and rising income levels. The United States, European Union, and Japan are the “Big Three” consumers for 80% of all seafood traded internationally.
In the past 35 years, the number of people fishing in the world has doubled and most of the growth has taken place in Asia due to the growth of acquaculture and poor government enforcement of restrictions on over-fishing.
Over 70% of the world’s fish species are already either fully exploited (producing catched close to their maximum sustainable limits) or over-exploited.
In the last decade in the North Atlantic region, commercial fish populations of cod, hake, haddock, and flounder have fallen by as much as 95%.
In 2003, Canadian researchers estimated that in the past 50 years, over-fishing has eliminated 9 out of 10 large predators such as tuna, swordfish, cod, and sharks.
An annual average of 7.3 million tons of fish is thrown back into the sea dead or dying because they are damaged, of the wrong species, under the legal landing size, or over a vessel’s quota of fish. This figure is believed to under estimate the number of marine mammals, turtles, and seabirds also caught as by-catch.
Acquaculture has become the fastest growing food production sector in the world and now accounts for over 30% of all fish consumed. Most of the increase has occurred in Asian countries, with China producing 70% of the global total of farmed fish.
It takes up to 3 pounds of wild anchovies or mackerel to feed and create 1 pound of farmed salmon or shrimp.
US territorial waters are the countries largest public domain. Spanning nearly 4.5 million square miles, they are 23% larger than the nation’s land mass.
Based on 2000 estimates, ocean-related activities directly contribute to more than $117 billion to the American economy and support well over 2 million jobs, including maritime trade, offshore oil and gas operations, and the fishing industry.
Over half of the U.S. population lives on the country’s coasts.
Every 8 months, nearly 11 million gallons of oil run off U.S. streets and driveways into our waters, the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
At present, less than 0.5% of the world’s oceans are protected as marine sanctuaries when fishing and other human activities are restricted.

Sources: UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization; World Resources Institute; Nature Magazine; Pew Oceans Commission

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