Overfishing & Destructive Fishing

Currently, less than two percent of our oceans are set aside as marine reserves, making it all too easy to exploit their resources. Overfishing and destructive, wasteful fishing practices are threatening the health of our oceans and food security for communities everywhere.

Destructive Fishing Methods in the Gulf of Thailand

Workers sort fish catch onboard a bottom trawler in the Gulf of Thailand. Bottom trawl fishing uses weighted nets that are dragged on the bottom of the seafloor and can destroy whole habitats. When used with very small net mesh sizes they also catch everything in their path including non targeted species and juvenile marine life. Greenpeace is documenting illegal and destructive fishing methodologies in the Gulf of Thailand as part of its Oceans Defender tour.

© Athit Perawongmetha / Greenpeace

We’ve already removed at least two-thirds of the large fish in the ocean, and one in three fish populations have collapsed since 1950. Put simply, there are too many boats chasing too few fish.

Overfishing is threatening food security for hundreds of millions of people and destroying ocean ecosystems worldwide.

In fact, the fishing industry can’t even sell everything it catches. One commercial fishing boat, which can be the size of a cruise ship, can catch more fish in one haul than hundreds of small-scale boats can in a year.

Not only is the amount of fish we’re catching unsustainable, the way we’re catching it also has serious consequences. As fishing techniques have evolved to catch the most fish possible, they’ve also become more destructive.


For example, bottom trawling—in which giant nets are run along the sea floor picking up or crushing whatever is in their path—is particularly damaging to fragile coral and sponge habitats. Longlining—a technique that consists of baiting thousands of hooks along miles-long fishing lines—snag thousands of creatures that are typically thrown back into the water dead or dying.

These “unwanted” species, called bycatch, often include turtles, albatross, sharks, manta rays, and even dolphins, many of which are endangered. Every year, commercial fishing kills as many as 300,000 whales, dolphins, and porpoises and about 100 million sharks.

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