More than 75 per cent of the planet is covered by oceans which are home to much of the world’s biodiversity and a vital source of food. Since the advent of industrial fisheries, fishing effort has often occurred at a level beyond which the natural fish populations can replenish themselves. In Canada, the most iconic example of overfishing is that of the North Atlantic cod, which once the most plentiful fish in our oceans, is now considered to be largely endangered in its range in the Northwest Atlantic. Understanding the status of the stock is a fundamental requirement for a sustainable fishery. Although this is a core goal of fisheries management, it is surprising how many fish populations are poorly understood despite being the subject of intense fisheries. Typically species that grow to a large size, are long-lived, and/or are slow growing are more susceptible to being overfished. Understanding the stock status requires regular scientific monitoring of the fish populations being harvested.

Overfished, Under-protected Overfishing is not an automatic outcome of capturing fish. Indeed, some level of harvest on pretty much any type of fish can be undertaken providing the proper management is in place. The causes of overfishing are complex and varied, and therefore so are the solutions. Generally, overfishing takes place when short term economic considerations are the only motivation of a fishery and when the management structure does not account for illegal, unregulated, or unreported fishing.  Overfishing can however take place even in situations where the management seems strong. One solution is the implementation of marine protected areas that allow for some portion of the targeted fish stock to be completely protected from fishing. This is probably the most effective way of ensuring that overfishing cannot occur regardless of the root cause.
Avoid purchasing overfished species that are not being managed in a way that ensures recovery. Overfished species include bluefin tuna and orange roughy. Search for sustainable seafood