32 Sad Overfishing Statistics (2024 UPDATE)

Consumption of fish is healthy, however, the following overfishing statistics show that fish are being caught at an alarming rate to satisfy demands and quotas. In turn, this wreaks havoc on the environment and marine life in general.

Top 10 Stats and Facts About Overfishing

General Overfishing Facts and Stats

Overfishing is a global problem, and these figures show just how widespread and alarming the issue is. To combat the lingering issues, experts must answer complex and sensitive questions and introduce sustainable solutions.

1. Overfishing is a complex phenomenon.

(World Wildlife Fund)

When taking a closer look at overfishing statistics, it’s easy to conclude that overfishing is an intricate situation.

On the one hand, overfishing is one of the significant drivers of ocean wildlife decline. It has fishery stocks nearly tripling over the last fifty years, and not even endangered species are spared. On the other, fishing is the livelihood of millions around the world.

These two facts alone make overfishing a complex problem that requires highly sustainable practices for reviving the oceans’ wildlife and ensuring the livelihoods of a great number of families.

2. The amount of fish eaten by consumers in a year has doubled (the current amount is around 19.2 kg).


Apart from that, FAO’s overfishing graph shows that industrial fishing capacities and consumer trends have also nearly doubled in the last 50 years.

Also, in 2013, 93 million tons of fish were caught across the globe.

3. The demand for fish is growing, with aquaculture production trends reaching a growth rate of 527% from 1990 to 2018.

(Food and Agriculture Organization)

To tackle the ecologically destructive effects of overfishing, experts must come up with efficient overfishing solutions.

Since the 1990s, the industry has seen significant growth, mainly from aquaculture. To put that into perspective, from 1990 to 2018, the rise in global aquaculture production trends were at +527%, while there was only a 14% increase in the production of capture fisheries in the same period (but still remaining the largest source). In the same time frame, the total amount of fish consumption has risen by 122%.

4. In the last few decades, the populations of key commercial species have declined by more than 90%.

(Washington Post)

Are we overfishing? In short, yes. Experts have warned commercial fisheries and governing bodies to regulate fishing quotas and introduce more sustainable methods to prevent species from disappearing.

A study from 2011 shows that even though more effort had been put into catching fish since the 1990s, the amount of fish caught in 2011 remained almost the same.

5. In 2018, capture fisheries produced a whopping 94.4 million tons of fish.

(Food and Agriculture Organization)

According to FAO’s overfishing statistics for 2020, that’s an average increase of around 5.4 percent when looking at the previous three years.

6. In 2018, the largest fishery production growth came from marine capture fishing companies, and it was estimated at 3.2 million tons.

(Food and Agriculture Organization)

The production from 2017 to 2018 had risen from 81.2 million to 84.4.

Among the top countries in 2018 were China, Indonesia, Peru, India, Russia, the US, and Vietnam, accounting for almost half of the total fishery production growth.

(Food and Agriculture Organization)

The overfishing data shows that, in 2018, anchoveta was the most popular fish species. Second on the list was the Alaska pollock with 3.4 million, while the Skipjack tuna took third place, with 3.2 tons.

8. Between 63 and 273 million sharks are killed annually due to overfishing.

(The Guardian, World Wildlife Fund)

Shark overfishing has been a lingering problem for years. Giving a precise estimate of the predators being caught, finned (when only the fins are cut off), and landed is difficult.

The reported data from 2010 claims there are around 97 million sharks killed annually. However, experts estimate that the annual numbers could be anywhere between 63 and 273 million, as per Pew’s most recent reports. Estimates also claim that 6.4–7.9% of all sharks are killed every year.

Sharks are often caught by accident. This phenomenon is referred to as bycatch, and in most of the cases, the sharks are simply discarded.

The fear of sharks is real, but there were just 73 confirmed cases of unprovoked shark bites on people in 2021. Considering this, sharks should be the ones fearing us.

Overfishing Facts About the Impact on the Environment

Overfishing raises numerous concerns regarding ecological, moral, and sustainability issues. Experts have studied the effects of industrial fishing and stated numerous figures and facts regarding its ecological footprint.

9. Over 25% of the world’s fish stocks are depleted or overexploited.


Among the more concerning overfishing facts is its destructive effect on the food chain. Fishing ships usually hunt for the most valuable fish in a given area, and when there’s no more, they move to the second most valuable type of fish. This manifests in constantly hunting down new species (usually always smaller and smaller) and fishing in different locations as well.

Experts estimate that, in the past 70 years, mankind has worked its way down the food chain, taking out top marine predators.

10. Around 40% of all fish are caught unintentionally.

(Oceana, Fish Forward)

Apart from destroying marine life, other negative overfishing effects include bycatch or unintendedly catching other endangered animals such as dolphins and sea turtles with fishing nets.

According to estimates, around 300,000 small whales and dolphins, 250,000 turtles, and 300,000 seabirds get captured on accident.

11. About 55% of the world’s oceans have been taken over by industrial fishing.


Studies looking at the economic footprint of fisheries have concluded that industrial fishing is a widespread practice, occurring in more than 55% of all ocean areas and occupies four times more area than agriculture.

12. Industrial fishing vessels record around 400 million hours of work per year.


Among the more alarming facts about overfishing is that it negatively affects the environment. A scientific study gathered data by tracking more than 70,000 fishing vessels. According to their results, during 2016, the vessels recorded 40 million working hours, consuming 19 billion KWh of energy, and traveling a combined distance of around 460 million kilometers, which is enough to go to the moon and back 600 times.

13. Marine reserves can help introduce sustainability and raise total biomass by 600%.


According to the overfishing statistics, no-take fully protected ocean areas can, on average, increase species richness by around 20%, the total fish numbers by 600%, and organism size by around 25%, compared to unprotected nearby areas.

In contrast, partially protected ocean areas where fishing is permitted can’t even double fish biomass in the same time frame.

14. There will be an approximate 3–25% decrease in global fish biomass by the end of this century.

(United Nations)

Overfishing statistics from the United Nations draw a perilous picture regarding marine life overall. Apart from overfishing, the IPBES Global Assessment Report from 2019 claims that the drastic environmental changes have led to an approximate 10% decrease in the extent of seagrass meadows per decade from 1970 to 2000.

15. Fisheries still have lots of room for improvement—only 60% are fully fished.

(Sustainable Fisheries)

“Fully-fished” means having the ability to realize potential food quotas without harming the environment. Conversely, the FAO’s overfishing statistics graph shows that 33% of fisheries are at low abundance or overfished (or over-exploited).

In 7% of instances, fisheries do not realize their full catch-potential. These are sustainable but less than ideal from a food security standpoint.

Alarming Whaling Facts and Statistics

Whale hunting has sprung several debates over the years and not just about ecological and biological reasons but because of cetacean intelligence.

Nowadays, the intense debate over sustainability and morality continues, with few countries seeking to lift bans and restrictions established by the International Whaling Committee.

16. Japan resumed commercial whaling in 2019.


The Asian country announced their intentions back in December 2018. And on July 1st the next year, Japanese whalers set out to hunt 25 sei whales, 187 Bryde’s whales, and 52 minke whales.


Japanese whaling facts reveal that the country uses “whaling for scientific purposes” as an excuse to set bans aside, while the whale meat was sold on the market, with retailers often cutting their prices to avoid food waste.

Moreover, the government in Japan subsidizes whale hunting around $10 million each year.

18. Japanese whaling statistics reveal that, out of the 181 female minke whales they’ve killed during their 2017/2018 Antarctic whaling expeditions, 122 were pregnant.


On the other hand, the country’s whaling program was banned in 2014 by the UN Court of Justice.

19. Norway killed 1,278 minke whales in the 2019 season.

(World Wildlife Fund, Whales.org)

Grim whaling statistics aren’t only reserved for Japan. Namely, Norway broke the International Whaling Committee’s moratorium and resumed whaling for commercial purposes in 1993. From that year, the country has raised its own quota. For example, the quota was 597 in 2018, 880 in 2016, and 999 in 2017.

20. Norway, Japan, and Iceland practice commercial whaling and kill over 100,000 small whales a year.


Here’s an alarming whaling fact for those who still aren’t convinced. On a yearly average, these three countries hunt over 1,500 large whales, while over 100,000 small whales, dolphins, and porpoises are also falling prey in other countries at the same time.

On the other hand, before whales became protected, people killed over 350,000 whales between 1904 and 1967.

21. The International Whaling Committee banned whaling in 1986.


Even though it’s illegal, among the most-well known whale hunting facts is that countries like Norway have been objecting to the ban since 1993. Also, Iceland hunts under reservation, and Japan left the IWC in 2019 but resumed whale hunting for profit.

Tuna Overfishing Statistics

22. Around 15% of the total amount of tuna fish caught came from stocks that are overfished.


According to the ISSF report from 2019, 81% of the total global tuna catch came from generally healthy stocks with intermediate or healthy levels of abundance.

23. Bluefin tuna overfishing shows declining tendencies with all three species, accounting for around 1% of the 2017 global catch numbers.


In that year, the total commercial catch for tuna was 4.9 million tons, which is a slight decrease of 2% compared to 2016.

24. Skipjack tuna accounted for around 56% of the global catch in 2017.


Next on the list was yellowfin tuna with 30%; bigeye tuna was in fourth place with 8%, and albacore was in fifth place with 5%.

25. In 2017, 95% of caught Pacific bluefins were not old enough to reproduce.

(Prindle Post)

The overfishing of bluefin tuna did cause huge and mature bluefins to sell for tens of thousands of dollars on the market in Japan and put significant stress on the food chain and the species itself.

With such huge demand, the fish don’t have a chance to mature and grow enough to reproduce, replenishing available stocks.

26. Although fisheries grow rapidly with increasing demand, the total amount of tuna caught was only 18% higher in 2017 than in 2000.

(Sustainable Fisheries)

The recorded increases were mostly generated by higher catch numbers in skipjack tuna since, among all major fished tuna, this species is the most productive. Conversely, skipjack tuna fishing trends show there are sustainable levels in each ocean.

27. Southern bluefin tuna quotas have dropped to 1% in the Indian Ocean, according to a 2019 report.

(Sustainable Fisheries)

In the 60s, this species accounted for 36% of the total annual tuna catch. Unfortunately, the main reason for this drop is mostly the fact that the catch of other tuna species has increased relative to bluefins.

However, catch limits have been implemented to improve abundance and replenish depleted bluefin stocks.


28. Why overfishing is a problem?

First of all, overfishing happens when more fish are caught and stocked than the population can regenerate through natural reproduction.

At first glance, stocking up on fish might not seem like a problem. However, overfishing can remove essential predators, damage coral reefs, and destroy local food sources.

It can also promote the uncontrolled growth of algae, eliminate endangered species, and cause financial hardship to seaside communities.

29. How can overfishing be prevented?

According to experts, there are a few ways overfishing could be reduced. They are as follows:

  • Collaborating with governments—There is a need for more unified regulations and policies for introducing more sustainable management protocols. Reducing heavy government subsidization may help curb the expansion of fisheries.
  • Working with the MSC—The organization strives to create commercial fishery standards that help maintain production while not harming the environment.
  • Education—Retailers need to learn how to purchase their seafood stocks from sustainable sources, which puts pressure on all fisheries to implement a more sustainable approach.
  • Protected areas—Restricted areas can help reduce the consequences of overfishing.
  • Consumer labels—To improve the figures on various overfishing charts, groups aim to educate consumers with pamphlets and guides about the potential dangers of overfishing.
  • Farming—With a responsible strategy, fish farming can promote the creation of a sustainable global seafood source without hurting the environment.

30. What is the most overfished fish?

One of the most overfished species is, without any doubt, bluefin tuna. Generally speaking, when it comes to all tuna species, populations are depleted or have been on the decline for years now.

For example, the World Conservation Union labeled southern bluefin tuna as a critically endangered species. Bigeye tuna is also a vulnerable species, and northern bluefin tuna fishing can also raise many concerns.

So are bluefin tuna endangered? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

31. What are the negative effects of overfishing?

It can wreak havoc on entire ecosystems, from changing the size of the remaining fish to interfering with how they reproduce. Also, it can affect the rate at which fish reach maturity.

Apart from that, overfishing can create imbalances that erode the intricate food chain leading to even further endangering species that are already scarce.

On the other hand, the fishing industry gives jobs to millions across the globe, and fish is also a major protein source for a significant number of the world’s population. When fish disappear due to overfishing, coastal economies and the fishing industry will crash and disappear.

32. What percentage of fisheries are overfished?

According to the latest available data, around 33% of global fisheries are overfished. This means that these fisheries are over-exploited or at a low abundance.

The figures also show that nearly 60% of the world’s fisheries are fully-fished, meaning that the fish population is at a level that gives realizable food quotas, without too much interference with the intricate ecosystem of marine life.

Moreover, 7% of the remaining fisheries can be referred to as under-fished or under-exploited. These fisheries are sustainable but do not meet catch quotas. However, they’re not ideal from the perspective of food security.


By the looks of these statistics, figures, and facts, it’s easy to see that overfishing is a layered phenomenon with several alarming ecological and economic problems. Industrialized fishing and aquaculture have devastating effects on the environment.

Conversely, as a huge commercial infrastructure, fishing is the livelihood of millions of people across the planet.

In order to reduce its environmental impact but still secure jobs, experts must focus on coming up with solutions that address every problem of this phenomenon. These overfishing statistics make it clear that there’s still room for improvement.


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