Let’s talk about OVERFISHING
In a post of no less than 250 words, share you thoughts on overfishing, including what it is, whether or not pollock are or were overfished, and the evidence that supports your stance. You might find it useful to think of geographical scale in your response.
BY Nov 17 at 11:59pm comment on at least two posts by your peers.
43 thoughts on “FTT Due Nov 15 by 11:59pm”
Overfishing, in simplistic terms, is used to describe too much fishing and the consequences that follow; often used in relation to stock depletion/collapse. I think some pollock stocks have been overfished and some are nearing the brink of overfishing. Fishing pressure on pollock stocks and fisheries/scientists/involved parties and individuals are beginning to take notice of the consequences; as consequences of increased fishing pressures increase, it becomes more feasible to make a declaration of “overfished”. The state of pollock stocks, specifically Alaska fisheries, is discussed in Billion Dollar Fish by Kevin M. Bailey. Aside from the information provided in this book, I did some external research to obtain a better understanding of the word ‘overfished’ in relation to pollock [globally]. It seems that the largest pollock fishery is in Alaska, in the eastern Bering Sea/Pacific ocean. I couldn’t find much information on global pollock fisheries. The conclusion on Alaskan pollock stocks are mixed: some sources assert that the fishery is perfectly fine, others believe pollock are in a vulnerable position, some say the stocks are overfished, on the brink of overfishing/collapse, and few deem the stocks as collapsed/noticeably depleted. What this tells me is that we need to come to a better consensus/ agreement on what “overfished” and “overfishing” mean, a baseline of the typical consequences of this, and our definitions for describing a stock as vulnerable or collapsed. If we cannot come to an agreement over what makes a stock overfished, we cannot accurately describe our stocks in the way we need to in order to make appropriate and effective management decisions.
Elle, I agree that there really needs to be an agreement over the definition of an “overfished stock”. Would you suggest the stock be defined in terms of qualitative or quantitative data? Would one be a worse measurement than the other?
I like that you kept it simple!
I completely agree that if we, as people, cannot agree on what makes a fishery overfished, then we cannot properly describe and explain our stocks to make proper management decisions. I really liked the way you wrote your response.
Elle, I like your point about the need for coming to a conclusion on how to define overfishing. It obviously is viewed a bit differently by the various sources you found in your external researching. Even Bailey lists a variety of different opinions on whether pollock are overfished in Billion Dollar Fish. He mentions that “the collapse of a fishery is sometimes defined as a decline in catches to 10% of the maximum previous level” (pg. 75). I found this definition to be interesting and not something I had heard of before. I suppose “collapse” and “overfishing” are separate categories, but this goes to show just how important being on the same page of a definition can be.
I agree that the definition of overfished is complicated, and there needs to be a better definition for overfished since as a concept it is crucial in the world of fishery management. I also think that there could be levels to overfishing and what could be considered overfished.
“Overfishing” is a more complex term than some people might think. I would define it as when a stock has been harvested so much that it affects the ecosystem as a whole, but this is just my interpretation. It can happen locally and on larger scales. A local example that I noticed this year was in the southern 10 miles of the 3A halibut sector where we frequently fish, and usually catch more halibut than anywhere else, was so depleted that it wasn’t worth fishing there. I also noticed that it wasn’t just the halibut that were gone, there were much fewer rockfish and lingcod also. We later learned that people had been fishing the area solid for at least a month prior, so it was not entirely surprising. In this case multiple species were significantly affected but they were all affected directly, so I would still call it overfishing but might classify it separately. Northern cod would be an example of large-scale overfishing, because the global population as a whole was severely damaged and other species were affected in a variety of ways. Pollock would be somewhere in between; a large population was destroyed, it affected the ecosystem, but the global population continues to exist and support the largest fishery in the world. The affected area was much larger than the 10-mile section in my example but not big enough that the species as a whole was majorly impacted. Overall, I think the definition of overfishing depends on whether you think of it as merely catch data or true abundance. You could define it either way and be partially correct.
I agree that overfishing describes not only a stock or a single, fished species but also the ecosystem as a whole. Thank you for including your personal experience, it adds more to your definition. Do you think the observed decline in halibut, lingcod, and rockfish is due to overfishing? Are there other causes for this decline?
You touched on multiple pieces of ways overfishing can be defined, which further proves your assertion of its complexities.
In this case I think the only cause of the decline was overfishing, since so many people had been fishing there recently. There is a chance that since all three species eat similar things there could have been a shortage of food, but I think it was most likely just overfishing.
Rio, I really enjoyed reading about your personal experience with overfishing. Do you have more examples? I’m curious to hear what else you’ve experienced and seen while fishing.
Yes, another would be the disappearance of shrimp from the two most popular places near town in 2020. The one that is more popular was closed to let the stocks recover, so everyone went to the other one and decimated the population there, too. I haven’t gone to either place since 2020 so I don’t know if they’ve recovered yet, but I imagine it will take quite a while.
I love how you began your response. Very intriguing!
I agree people tend to oversimplify big-picture terms, such as overfishing. You make a good point about local vs larger scales, and the part of the ecosystem being affected as well. I believe when people hear “overfishing,” people tend to think large scale first and foremost. I’m embarrassed to admit that the ecosystem effects didn’t even cross my mind when discussing overfishing. On your last note, I agree that the definition of overfishing, as well as many other definitions, is all about how you interpret it. If we all read the same paragraph, we could all interpret it differently and have different take aways.
I would consider overfishing to mean catching limited resources faster than it can reproduce and sustain its population. If the fishery can not keep up (in numbers/health) with the amount of fish that is getting removed, then the fishery is overfished. I completely think that overfishing is something that occurs, just look at the Northern Cod fishery. The cod were caught with such vigor that the population/sustainability could not keep up with the fishing demand. As for the pollock fishery, there are many aspects to it. Some regions of the fishery have been overfished while others haven’t. This damages genetic stock. When looking online about the varying pollock fisheries, they were referred to by their region (where they are located). Like the Aleutian Island Pollock fishery which, according to the internet, is doing fine with numbers in the population. But when researching the global pollock fishery, I read that the fishery is “facing its first meaningful reduction in supply” in the last decade. Now do I trust seafoodsource.com, I don’t know, but I think it’s safe to assume that with the increase of people there would be an increase in demand for more food (pollock) but we don’t have the supply to keep up so overfishing on a global scale could take place.
I would like to add that I strongly agree with Elle. Some sort of “overfishing baseline” needs to be created. While each fishery is different and in being so will make this task difficult, it’s necessary to do, in order to strive towards preserving the remaining wild stock.
But going off of what Rio said, it’s interesting to include the ecosystem into the overfishing definition. I would agree that the decrease of a fish population plays a large role in the environment’s health.
I appreciate your mention of reproduction and sustainability, these are two important factors when determining whether a stock has been overfished/is more or less vulnerable to overfishing. What do you think other fisheries can learn from the collapse of Northern cod stocks and the consequences that followed? Do you think, based upon your research, pollock is following in suit?
Further, what variables do you think a baseline for defining “overfishing” should include? I would say variables such as catch data, life history characteristics, ecosystem data/health, food webs, supply and demand, society, politics, management, fishing pressures, technology, etc…
I think that the genetic health of a population is a good point to raise. There might be numbers present, but genetic diversity is equally important to keeping a population healthy in the long term (I think). Maybe there could be areas where pollock are not overfished, but what could that mean to the overall species genetic health long term? Interesting problem.
I liked that you wrote about how some sections of pollock seem to be overfished while others are not.
Overfishing is when humans, whether via sport or commercial fishing, take too many of a species and don’t leave enough for a steady reproduction result. If you have 30 fish in a pond, take 25 of them for sustenance use, you will not have those same 30 (or more) fish after the next mating season if only those 5 are left to reproduce. Numbers will decrease, whether the fishing stays at the same, steady pace of use or increases.
Pollocks are overfished, both historically and now. After much research on what occurred in Newfoundland with speakers, books, and online sites & videos, it is quite clear that there is a struggle with these often-eaten species. Pollock, amongst other popular fishes, should be much more carefully regulated and potentially bred in hatcheries to keep numbers above natural, wild status in order to meet demands of the human consumption concern.
I like that you pointed out that problems with overfishing seem to become more relevant when observing more popular fishes. It seems like as a market for any given fish grows more apparent, companies scramble to capitalize off of the trend without fully considering risks associated with placing high amounts of stress on that species
Overfishing is defined by fishing at such a rate that more fish are being harvested at a much higher rate than they are able to maintain “sustainable” populations. I know some scientists put a number on the percentage of the population that can be harvested to maintain sustainable levels, but it is definitely different for each species of fish based on their life-history characteristics. For example pollock are highly fecund and will eat about anything. This would make it theoretically harder to overfish pollock than a fish with low fecundity or a pickier appetite.
I would go even farther and classify overfishing as fishing past a populations’ ability to maintain a population similar to the original population. This is definitely hard to calculate, because it is hard to determine fish populations by the amount of fish that are caught as is typical for the determination of modern “sustainable” fishing practices.
This is why I think it is hard to determine if pollock are overfished. I mean I think they kind of have to be. It seems like most of the data out there is using CPUE to determine pollock populations, but then it is hard to determine how many pollock there were before we started fishing them. I think that currently humans value pollock so much, and continue improving fishing techniques to capture new populations similar to cod. I do think that pollock are likely getting closer to their “fishing moratorium” moment like cod, I feel like this is confirmed by a lot of population/ catch graphs from google.
I think overfishing is a general term to suggest that a fish stock is declining due to overharvest and pressure placed on it. There’s certainly a lot of disagreement about what exactly that means, but I would say that if a population is unable to recover over time from fishing pressure, and experiences a decline, that would suggest it’s overfished. I think the term “overfishing” is a useful term to draw attention to a potentially collapsed or otherwise troubled species or fishery, where a discussion about better practice or conservation can be had.
I think pollock is a good example of the complicated debates that can surround using the term overfished. It’s obvious that the populations have shrunk due to exploitation, but whether or not this has reached an unsustainable level is controversial. It’s likely that certain stocks and regions are depleted, but the overall health of the fishery might be more robust than is given credit for. It’s hard to place mathematical certainty in a lot of marine population issues, given the logistical challenges of gathering whole sets of data from the wide sea. With pollock, it seems easy to look at the data coming from surveys and stock measurements and draw different conclusions entirely. It’s certainly more complicated than one word can contain!
I think when we talk about overfishing and its presence in the pollock fishery, it’s often in the context of more radical collapses like northern cod. That can be a bit of a double-edged sword, where it may be dismissed as alarmist, but may also be seen as looking to prevent a terrible outcome for a fish stock and greater ecosystem.
Overfishing refers to an excess of fish being harvested faster than populations can replenish themselves, causing a fish stock to become exhausted and depleted. With shifting baselines changing the way people view fisheries and the health of fish stocks, I would think that many fish could be considered overfished when compared to their past counterparts. Overfishing is an ominous thought, as it is ideal to be able to pass along healthy fisheries to future generations for food sources, environmental benefits, and cultural/traditional purposes.
Billion Dollar Fish mentions that Alaska pollock fish stocks have been overfished and depleted in various areas but not all. The book suggests that pollock in the North Pacific could be declining, whereas Bering Sea pollock stocks are considered to be healthy and effectively managed. Bailey listed two specific examples in 1992 and 2008 when pollock was predicted to collapse due to declines in overall abundance, but never did. He describes many different viewpoints, some believing pollock is overfished and others stating that the fishery’s abundance in increasing.
The fact that there were declines in pollock abundance during these times could be evidence that the fisheries were being overfished at some point. But answering if pollock are currently overfished seems inconclusive given that there are so many varying opinions and perspectives on the subject, both mentioned by Bailey in the book and according to various online sources. If feeding our world’s populations continues in its current trends, it would be likely that global pollock stocks could be considered overfished at some point in the future.
I appreciate your point about comparing how fisheries used to be fished versus how they are fished now. It’s a great point about how relative it can be, but also about how far we have taken fishing technology and consumption.
I liked your definition of overfishing, I agree that there is a shifting baseline that people base the stocks off of. I feel like it’s different now compared to what it used to be, what are your thoughts?
When I think of overfishing, I think of fishing past the point where that species is unable to repopulate itself or sustain its population; fishing past the point of no return. If there are significantly more fish leaving a fishery than entering the fishery, there is an issue of overfishing. A concrete example of overfishing is the Northern Cod fishery where the cod fish were fished so aggressively and rapidly that the population was not able to keep up. This well-established fishery collapsed in a fraction of the time that it was actively successful. Parts of the pollock fishery were overfished, but not the fishery as a whole. Having parts of the fishery overfished and parts not overfished is likely to alter genetic stock.
According to NOAA Fisheries, there are five walleye pollock stocks. The website states that “the Aleutian Islands stock is not overfished… not subject to overfishing based on 2021 catch data; the Eastern Bering Sea stock is not overfished… not subject to overfishing based on 2021 catch data; the Western/Central/West Yakutat Gulf of Alaska stock is not overfished… not subject to overfishing based on 2021 catch data; the Bogoslof stock has been assessed, but there is not enough information to determine the population’s size so the overfished status is unknown… stock is not subject to overfishing based on 2021 catch data; and, the Southeast Gulf of Alaska stock has been assessed, but there is not enough information to determine the population’s size so the overfished status is unknown… stock is not subject to overfishing based on 2021 catch data”. I found this information to be rather interesting because Alaska has many scientists working in the fisheries field. I can’t decide between the data being so recent, uplifting or somewhat concerning.
Queenie, thanks for sharing that article! I also am not sure whether its concerning or uplifting.. It seems like there is no way that they aren’t overfished but also I guess it could maybe be sustainable if one were to frame it a certain way.
I think what you brought up regarding the genetic stock of the fishery being altered is a very interesting topic. I wonder how organizations like NOAA would go about assessing this aspect of the fishery, and what the long term consequences of such a situation would end up being.
Hi Queenie, I used the same NOAA reference, but forgot to include that the two of the 2021 records were marked as incomplete. What more information do you need, I wonder?
Based on what I have learned in this class, I would consider overfishing to be fishing at rates that prohibit fish populations from remaining stable and consistent. If fish are being removed at rates that are greater than their reproductive rates, they will not be able to maintain healthy or normal population and will enter the process of depletion. Before taking this class, I think my definition would have been a little bit different. I think I would have considered overfishing to be fishing until there are no fish left. This is still kind of similar, but I think that overfishing doesn’t necessarily happen overnight. It can be a process that takes place over several years.
I think that pollock were and are probably overfished. I’m not sure that it will have the same dramatic timeline that we saw with the North Atlantic Cod fishery, but I think that there will probably be some dramatic events that will come with potential new regulations for pollock catch. I also think that pollock are used on a much larger scale than the North Atlantic cod were. We are able to export fish at much larger and faster rates. Also, we are able to catch fish at much larger and faster rates than we used to. Given this and given the amount that pollock are used, I would think that its almost impossible that they aren’t overfished.
I appreciated you bringing up how your opinion on the definition of overfishing has changed. I think that the general public doesn’t understand that they are uneducated about fisheries/ state of fisheries, which makes sharing information like the fact that some species of fish are in danger or it may even be too late. This probably has to do with the misconception that the ocean is an indefinite resource which main stream media will eventually need to acknowledge is untrue
Overfished is an important term regarding fisheries and fishery management, however it is not one easily defined. Often it is used in regards to sock depletion and/or a stock collapse. I think that overfishing is the fishing of a population to a point where it can no longer self sustain. I would add to this that I also believe that overfishing is also when the amount of fish being harvested greatly outweighs the total amount of fish in the stock. I don’t think that there is necessarily a percentage that can be used to provide a hard definition of overfishing, but I do think that overfished populations are easily identified once they get to the point of no return. But many fish stocks of the world today could be considered to be overfished, but just are not designated as so.
Pollock should be considered overfished, and have been historically overfished. However, I would not say that pollock are overfished to the point of no return, and are not likely to be compared to northern cod any time soon. There seem to be areas of pollock stocks that are definitively collapsed and areas that are doing well. Many pollock stocks have seen sharp overall declines, which is seen with overfishing. Others have continued to exist past the point that many had predicted they would. This does not mean that these stocks have not been/ are not overfished.
Taryn – You highlight an excellent point that overfished populations are easily spotted once they have already hit the point of collapse and even moratorium, like we learned with the Newfoundland Northern cod story. I agree that it can be hard to assign a specific definition of overfishing, as stocks can vary as you mentioned.
I agree that pollock are overfished but not as the northern cod were, because some stocks are doing well. I also liked what you said about world stocks being overfished but they are just not designated as so, why do you think that is?
I definitely agree with you Taryn that this is such a broad term and easily skewed by the news. I think your definition of what overfishing is straight to the point and fits it to a “T”. I do disagree however that overfishing can be stopped because if we can catch it soon enough than the fishery could be saved and not become overfished.
The definition of overfishing I will use for my discussion is the harvesting of fish from any given environment at a rate greater than that of the rate at which fish are replenished. The question of whether or not Pollock was overfished is very broad and could be interpreted differently depending on a wide variety of conditions. I would like to focus on the Donut Hole fishery collapse (which more or less was caused mainly in part by overfishing) observed in the book as I found it interesting to consider the factors that led to this collapse and contrast to other instances of collapse we observed in class. The donut hole fishery was a short-lived operation in the 1980s that peaked at around a biomass of 13 million tons of harvestable pollock in the region and a harvest of around 1.7 million tons. The biomass would drastically decrease by 1992 to only 6% of the maximum, and catches would increase as biomass reached this low, exhibiting a near textbook example of overfishing that continues to affect the Donut hole region to this day. Further supporting this conclusion is the fact that other potential causes of collapse have been disproven, as factors such as temperature change only exhibited significant effects until after the region’s biomass was already in decline. The overfishing in the donut hole could likely be attributed to fact that multiple countries with differing degrees of regulation fished in this region, which led to underreported and IUU fishing from various countries. Adding onto this was the lack of communication between the countries involved in the fishery, which led many of them to believe that there were more fish in the donut whole than what actually remained. I think that this fishery is by far one of the most blatant examples of overfishing we have seen in class so far, and it makes a lot of sense that it barely lasted around a decade being managed like this.
I like that you bring up this “donut hole” example in a pollock fishery. I think this theory is one that can be applied to many different fisheries, where even as biomass is rapidly declining, catch is remaining constant (even if effort is increasing). The populations of cod off the Grand Banks could likely also use this theory to describe their eventual downfall.
I think your statement of what you classify as overfished is well stated and quiet true. If we pull more than can be replenished than over a period of time a decline in the population will without a doubt occur. This definitely is a hard question to answer of whether pollock are overfished with so many countries and over different areas. The donut hole region is without a doubt a textbook example of overfishing that will not be forgotten about and hopefully can become a lesson learned to fisherman.
Overfishing in simple terms, occurs when too many fish are being caught at once. When stocks are being overfished there isn’t enough time for a stock to replenish itself or produce enough offspring at the rate they’re being taken. When I think of a population being overfished it is no longer sustainable for future generations.
When looking at pollock stocks it depends which one you look at because some are overfished and depleting while others aren’t. I found that out of the five stocks of walleye pollock 3 of the 5 have not been overfished (NOAA 2020-2021). NOAAs website also said for two of the stocks there was not enough information to determine their population size. The book mentions that some pollock stocks are depleted in some areas but not all. On the NOAA website there is an option to look at different stocks and look at the graphs of the populations from 1970-2021. In the graph for the pollock in the gulf of Alaska there are highs and lows throughout the years. Looking at some other stocks in and around Japan, some are in poor condition while others are not. Based on this information and how I view overfishing it’s hard to determine where pollock are exactly, but I feel like most of their stocks are overfished. One possibility is that some of the populations are overfished but not to the point where they are not sustainable, while other populations are. Pollock populations have historically been overfished and we don’t know if those populations have recovered.
I think some species are overfished and others are not. It all depends on the species. To me, overfishing is the point where we are fishing a species so heavily that their numbers are dropping so much that in the near future that species would become extinct or endangered. It could also be something like erasing that species from a certain body of water or geographical location. I think the pollock were definitely overfished as the graphs in the book show major drops in numbers of catch and species in certain areas. Sidney Holt even stated that the models and graphs that biologists use to determine the proper amount of fish to harvest can lead to overfishing. I think it’s such an almost impossible thing to determine catch quotas because there are so many variables that could affect their estimations that could skew everything. One little environmental change or one disease could kill off an area or become the cause that an area becomes overfished. Not to mention the black market fleet that doesn’t care or follow regulations and are pulling as much of anything and everything to make maximum profit. Another example of this would be the boundary lines of fishing areas where countries are crossing each other’s boundary lines to catch a good limit which can play a variable in the math of what a “proper amount” of fish to harvest is set to. I think the only way to adjust this is to shoot low with the catch quota’s so that way if we go a little over we are still safe. This would also allow for those variables we have no control on that could cause an area to become overfished.
I highly agree with your point on regulating the people that are involved in the fishery. The science is definitely valuable and can lead to informed decisions, but it appears more often than not that making a sensible fishery can be frustrated by groups and fleets that have no regard for long term health.
I completely forgot endangerment or extinction as an indicator. I suppose that’s the end-all… I agree with you on the intricacies of management being a bit willy-nilly. This is why I advocate strongly for historical abundance records.
There are a lot of ways that overfishing can be defined. Overfishing is the removal of a species of fish from a body of water at a rate greater than that the species can replenish its population naturally, resulting in the species becoming increasingly underpopulated in that area. Fishing is one of the most significant drivers of declines in ocean wildlife populations. Catching fish is not inherently bad for the ocean, except for when vessels catch fish faster than stocks can replenish, something called overfishing. Overfishing is closely tied to bycatch—the capture of unwanted sea life while fishing for a different species. This, too, is a serious marine threat that causes the needless loss of billions of fish. An example could be the Northern Cod fishery in Newfoundland. My summer work on the Yukon could also be another example but there are many things that can be tied to it. The Yukon
River Chinook salmon drainage wide run in 2022 was the worst on record with approximately
45,000 Chinook salmon passing Pilot Station sonar. In the middle Yukon River, the number of
Chinook salmon with visual signs of disease caused by Ichthyophonus was appalling. Overfishing can be a apart of it but also ich can be a bigger factor. Fishers on the Yukon River have been able to observe Ichthyophonus in diseased Chinook salmon and recognize trends over time in the Yukon River. This knowledge led fishers to suggest Ichthyophonus could be a significant source of pre-spawning mortality.
To say a stock is ‘overfished’ can mean a myriad of things to me, in no particular order. Perhaps there isn’t enough fish or organisms to harvest for human consumption, or the life cycle of the animal has been disrupted enough they have a difficult time repopulating. Maybe the environment or food chain may have been altered though the lack of the species. In a nutshell, no matter how it manifests, we’ve exceeded allotments in some obvious way.
Pollack are a little different: stocks certainly have collapsed, and it created a crescendo echoing through all levels of the food chain, but a large bulk of it is still returning noticeable profit and is applicable in almost anywhere fish is in demand. To me, they seem to be simultaneously overfished while reproducing enough (thus producing enough) to warrant a continued harvest. It’s difficult to say, but I think global demand puts more pressure on the dimming of red lights in the management then a fish that’s less versatile or more rare: we’ve been applying pollock to so many protein-based problems that, like a cod addict, it’d be hard to quit it. In Alaska, 2021 return data (via NOAA) asserted that none of our three biggest pollock fisheries were being overfished – we could be safe here, but I still feel cynical given the trajectory cod went on. It seems like managers are in a bit of a squeeze – the amount of pollock we are taking from the ocean is ginormous, but there is a lack of consensus.