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Fishing for Answers

Making sense of the global fish crisis

This report allows consumers make links between what they eat and the effect on the ecosystem and fishers globally, as well as stimulate dialogues among environmentalists, the fishing industry, and consumers.

Executive Summary

For millennia, harvesting resources from the seas, lakes, and rivers has been a source of sustenance and livelihood for millions of people. That is nearly as true today as it was a century ago. Yet, the nature of the fishing enterprise and the condition of the marine and freshwater resources it relies on could hardly have changed more radically over the last 100 years. In the last half century, a tide of new technology--from diesel engines to driftnets---has swept aside the limits that once kept fishing a mostly coastal and local affair. The result has been a rapid depletion of key stocks, and serious disruption and degradation of the marine and freshwater ecosystems they live in--what many have termed a "global fisheries crisis." Unfortunately, pressure on fish stocks is primed to increase even as stock conditions continue to worsen. Demand for seafood products is projected to continue growing at 1.5 percent per year through 2020.

Despite these troubling statistics, most people have little idea of what the "fisheries crisis" is, or what it means to them. From a consumer's point of view the sad condition of fish stocks is not obvious. There are still plenty of fish available in markets and restaurants, although the types and prices may have changed. So are we really running out of fish? Are coastal ecosystems nearing collapse?

The purpose of Fishing for Answers: Making Sense of the Global Fish Crisis is to answer some of these questions and help consumers, environmental organizations, and policy-makers deepen their understanding of the issues surrounding global fisheries and find their potential roles in creating a political and economic environment that will foster sustainability in fishing.

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