Yesterday, at an obscure United Nations meeting, some distressing news came from a gathering of policy-makers, scientists and diplomats in Rome. The Food and Agricultural Organisation is convening in Italy and yesterday put forward their most recent State of the World’s Fisheries and Aquaculture report. Unfortunately, the state of the world’s fisheries is pretty dismal.

In just ten years, the global trade in fish and fish products has nearly doubled in value.  More than half (55%) of fish product exports come from developing nations and are bound for plates in rich countries.

  • The proportion of fish stocks estimated to be healthy has declined from 40 percent in the mid-1970s to 15 percent in 2008.
  • At the same time, the proportion of fish stocks that are in trouble increased from 10 percent in 1974 to 32 percent in 2008.
  • The global demand for seafood is only going to increase, which is why we need to make sure that our oceans are healthy and can continue to sustain life on earth and feed the world’s people.  

This FAO report confirms what we’ve known to be true for years: that we’re simply running out of fish and that our oceans are already becoming exhausted. But- There is a way out! There is an answer! Oceans-saving marine reserves!

Greenpeace's proposed network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world's oceans- the vision that can rescue our world's seas.

Urgent action is needed to save the world's oceans from collapse: to manage our oceans for the billions of people dependent on them for food, and the creation of a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world's oceans.  Governments must act now, by ending overfishing and illegal fishing, and by creating living oceans for the world’s people, for generations to come, and not just for the industrial fishing interests.

Some try and put forward aquaculture as the solution to the oceans crisis. However, the real solution to the increasing demand for decreasing fish supplies is reforming the fishing and aquaculture industries and implementing a global network of marine reserves: both of which can restore fish populations and our oceans back to health. Fishing operations and communities alike in the developing world – not just the rich countries’ fishing industries - must be ensured access to fish for survival.

Steve Smith works in the communications department at Greenpeace International, based in Amsterdam.