According to WWF, 40% of the fish caught worldwide are snared unintentionally, and returned to the sea dead or dying.
Annual bycatch statistics include:
↠ 300,000 small whales & dolphins
↠ 250,000 loggerhead turtles & leatherback turtles
↠ 300,000 seabirds
Part of the current problem is that the open ocean (the high seas) lies outside the boundaries of any country. Although this immense area makes up nearly two-thirds of our ocean and provides 90% of the habitat for all ocean life, only about 0.5% of it is fully protected from fishing, mining, and other human activity.
Plus, even with 17 regional fishery management organizations and several treaties governing fishing, approximately 20 percent of fish are still caught unlawfully worldwide. Illegal fishing costs the global economy $23 billion annually, and robs subsistence and small-scale fishing communities of their livelihoods. Currently, 33% of popular commercial species are being overfished, according to the FAO.
However (here’s the hopeful part), in September 2018, 71 countries and more than 40 NGOs engaged in the first round of negotiations over a potentially ocean-changing international treaty at the United Nations. A large number of important decisions will be made by national representatives over the course of four sessions, the last of which will take place in 2020. Most importantly, this could include the establishment of fully protected Marine Protected Areas.
If you’re interested in getting involved in this effort, donate and support non-profits like the @nrdc_org
who are deeply involved in this process, and call your representatives to ask for action on behalf of the United States. The seas have always been a lawless place, but this could be about to change for the better. With the help of people from around the world, a strong treaty could have the power to dramatically improve the long-term economic, environmental, and social wellbeing of communities for centuries to come.