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Overharvesting and Overfishing Practices: Looking at EU Common Fisheries Policy and Sustainable Agriculture International Standards

Globalization of the fisheries industry and the resultant unsustainable fishing practices

The global population is increasing exponentially, it is projected that it will reach 10 billion by 2050 1. The United Nations has set out to end world hunger and achieve food security by 2030 as per the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2. The World Resource Institute estimates that the current global food production needs to increase by 50 % to meet the food requirements of a 10 billion population 3, fisheries have the potential of meeting these demands. However, the globalization of the fisheries industry which is accompanied by unsustainable fishing practices threatens food security4

The worldwide consumption of fish has risen by 122 % in the past 30 years5, this insatiable appetite is fueled by expanding fish production and imports. In 1974 it was reported that 90% of the global fish stocks were fished within biologically sustainable levels, today it is less than two-thirds (see figure 1)5.

Figure 1: Global trends and the state of the world’s marine fish stock, 1974-2017 5
Progress made in curbing unsustainable fishing practices against specified SDG goals

The modern fishery has several regulations and policies at its disposal to manage the impact on fish stocks these include: EU Common Fisheries, Sustainable Agriculture International Standards, and Fishing Quotas6. Total allowable catch (TAC) has been effective in the European Union in determining national fishing quotas7. In Iceland none of the commercially harvested species is threatened by overfishing8, this is due to the adherence to the yearly TACs set out by the EU Fishery Minsters.

The EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) sets to regulate all aspects of fishing within the EU, this is from the ocean to the consumer ensuring the fisheries in the region are used economically and sustainably. The progress made by the CFP in curbing unsustainable fishing practices include9

  1. Reduced fishing mortality in the North-East Atlantic  
  1. Riparian countries focusing on eradicating illegal fishing  
  1. Increased regionalization and enhanced regional cooperation, allow more collaboration between different fisheries in different EU countries 

The benefits of developing sustainable fishing policies outside normative instruments such as CFP

Fisheries reforms are necessary for ensuring that the sector is sustainable, in 2004 the Masifundise Development Trust was registered in South Africa in response to unsatisfactory fisheries reforms10. The success of the Trust included implementing long-term fishing rights for all commercial fisheries and advocating for the South African government to adopt a Small-scale Fisheries Policy (SSFP) which was of commercial benefit to all four coastal provinces – the Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal 10

Developing region-specific sustainable fishing policies is necessary from both a commercial and environmental perspective. This is evident in African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) coastal states which are major fish importers to the EU 11. The EU’s heavy reliance on the ACP states for fish results in overfishing and the collapse of fish stocks, this calls for governing of the relations between these regions by a range of instruments amongst them are the ACP national fisheries policies and the Fisheries Partnership Agreement Policies (FPA) 11. The implementation of the FPA encouraged the EU to move away from bilateral agreements between the ACP states, these agreements were based on a “cash for access” system which was unsustainable and resulted in overfishing 12.  

The policies achieved the following objectives12:   

  • Excess capacity was reduced in the European Fleet 
  • 152 joint enterprises were created, and 77% of all joint enterprises were in Africa 
  • Maintaining employment in the European Union

For more information regarding key issues relating to sustainable ACP fisheries resource management through ACP-EU Fisheries Partnership Agreements refer to the resource here.

Sustainable harvest and fishing practices from indigenous communities around the world

A First Nations community on the Canadian west coast practiced the sustainable harvest of wild salmon for millennia before the system was mostly ended by the arrival of European settlers12. The Tsleil-Waututh, an Indigenous community used large weirs to capture salmon preparing to spawn, the capture method used gender selection when harvesting spawning salmon. The females were released to ensure the population would remain healthy for future use 13. Studies reveal that Tsleil-Waututh salmon fishing methods were sustainable when compared to modern industrial harvesting methods which destroy resources. Canada is facing a declining salmon population owing to overfishing, researchers are highlighting the importance of the Tsleil-Waututh practices as a solution for properly managing fisheries 13

There are many Indigenous cultures around the world and there is great diversity among them, similarly, the specific indigenous fishing methods differ significantly. However, all of these indigenous fisheries are aligned to the environment in which they’re set in, this influences the type of fishing gear used and the fishing frequency 14. Relationality is a worldview that most Indigenous fisheries ascribe to, many see the fish as an extension of their lives14. The indigenous fisheries are sustainable because they employ the key principles of respect, responsibility, relationality, and reciprocity.  

Our Hiraya and we can help your Fishery to be sustainable

Our Hiraya is a global consulting firm pioneering sustainability-as-a-service, with global experts who are well versed in all areas of sustainability and policy development, fisheries can benefit greatly by partnering with Our Hiraya owing to the company’s innovative and accessible sustainability model which accounts for country size. Supply chain management is an important component in ensuring fisheries are productive and sustainable. Our Hiraya global experts can assist fisheries to implement meaningful actions across their supply chains resulting in improved efficiency across suppliers and additionally addressing stakeholder needs. 

At Our Hiraya we are Chameleons by Nature, we embrace change and adapt.  The Fisheries is industry constantly changing however its commitments toward sustainable fishing have to remain resolved. The latter being one of our core values, we are sure to make the global fisheries industry sustainable.  


  1. UN DESA (2019) World population prediction. 
  1. UN Sustainable Development Goals Report (2020). 
  1. World Resources Institute (2019) Creating a Sustainable Food Future. 
  1. UN FAO The State of World Fisheries (Rome, 2020). 
  1. UN FAO State of the world fisheries (Sofia, 2020). 
  1. UN FAO The State of World Fisheries (Rome, 2020). 
  1. OECD Review of Fisheries Country Notes | January 2021. 
  1. Aranda, M., Prellezo, R. and Santurtun, M.,’EU.2019. Fisheries Policy latest developments and future challenges, European Parliament Committee.  
  1. The future of ACP-EU fisheries relations – Towards more sustainability and improved social and economic well-being for ACP coastal communities, Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, 2006. 
  1. Cecco, L. (2021). Canada: Indigenous people fished sustainably for 1,000 years before settler’s arrived study. Available at:  (Accessed: 24 June 2022). 
  1. Lohan, T. (2021). Why Indigenous Knowledge Matters to the Future of Fisheries. Available at: (Accessed: 24 June 2022). 

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