GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel
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Fish - food and livelihood for the growing world population, industrial sector and a finite resource. Within a few decades, industrial fishing has spread from the classic fishing areas in the northern hemisphere to all seas. Many stocks of edible fish are considered overfished and have collapsed. However, the situation is not hopeless. Various countries have now shown that fish stocks can indeed be rebuilt through sustainable fisheries management. Researchers at GEOMAR are therefore looking at fish as a resource from different perspectives. Their common goal is to find new solutions for environmentally sound fisheries management.
In Northern Europe alone, about 200 fish stocks are commercially exploited, but only a few of them meet the internationally binding criteria for sustainable fishing. GEOMAR has joined forces with the German consumer organizations and some NGOs to jointly publish an annual list of those marine fish that consumers can still eat with a reasonably good conscience.
Here, researchers from GEOMAR take over the scientific assessment of sustainable stock size and sustainable fishing pressure and verify compliance with these criteria. They are guided by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and its implementation in the EU's Common Fisheries Policy. According to this, fish stocks must be larger than a certain minimum size that can produce the maximum sustainable yield. In addition, fishing pressure on a stock must not exceed that which can produce maximum sustainable yield in the long term. Additional criteria, such as low-impact and low-bycatch fishing methods, are assessed by the other partners.
The fish and marine animals on the joint "Good Fish" list meet these criteria, in some cases with conditions that determine whether they remain on the list in the future. This is also intended to improve fisheries management. The list explicitly does not claim to be complete.
Extract from the list "good fish". Plaice, flounder and dab are flatfish that live mainly on the seabed. The stocks in the Baltic Sea are doing well and are fished sustainably if caught with traps and pots.
The farming of aquatic life in separated areas, known as aquaculture, is often seen as a supposed solution to the problem of intensive overfishing, but it too cannot satisfy the global hunger for fish and seafood and has already reached its ecological limits. An analysis of the growth rates of aquaculture production shows that the zenith has been passed and the numbers are declining.
Large-scale catching of small inexpensive fish as feed for expensive farmed fish also places a heavy burden on developing countries, African and South American coastal states in particular. Providing most of the world's food fish through aquaculture, with the existing geographic focus, could therefore have serious socioeconomic, nutritional, and food security consequences for the entire world.