Commercial Fisheries

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A billion people around the world rely on fish as their primary source of animal protein. While people in industrialized nations eat significantly more fish than those in developing countries, the majority of wild-caught fish comes from developing countries. But the supply is not bottomless. Throughout most of the world’s fishing areas, production has diminished since the 1980s, and the majority of fish stocks are fully exploited. With the decline of their food supply, seabirds, sea turtles, marine mammals, sharks, and other species have suffered. Many also succumb to entanglement in fishing gear, or are inadvertently trapped in nets as “bycatch.” Some marine ecosystems, including fragile coral reefs and coastal estuaries, have collapsed as a consequence of these threats.

WCS as an institution is committed to the long-term conservation and sustainability of fisheries around the world. Our conservationists help drive fisheries policy reform, protect areas of high biodiversity, and empower coastal communities to sustainably manage their marine resources.

WCS Projects

Belize: Legal Protection for Coral Communities

WCS is helping the Belize’s Department of Fisheries to reform its national fisheries, in part to ensure the survival of certainly deeply overfished species, including groupers and parrotfish. Our work also helps to protect the country’s fragile reefs, and establish more marine protected areas.

Regulating Shark & Ray Fisheries

Shark fisheries have expanded in size and number around the world since the mid-1980s to meet the rapidly rising demand for shark fins, meat, and cartilage. Most of these fisheries are unregulated and undocumented. As a result, numerous shark species now face extinction. WCS is working to improve regulation of the global trade in shark products to reverse the decline of these remarkable fishes.

The Bounty of the Patagonian Sea

The Patagonian Sea’s fertile expanse is both a haven for wildlife and a magnet for the fishing industry. WCS has worked to influence conservation policy here since the 1970s. Our Sea and Sky Initiative promotes sustainable management of the region’s fisheries and identifies priority areas for conservation.

From the Newsroom

Coral Reefs and a Scourge of Sea UrchinsJanuary 11, 2011

A long-term WCS study off the Kenyan coast finds overfishing in coral ecosystems can stunt the growth of reefs.

One Fish, Two Fish, Big Fish, Better FishMay 13, 2010

A 12-year study off the coast of Kenya deconstructs old notions of how fishery closures affect local economies. Hint: They help them.

Nurturing Fisheries Back to HealthJuly 31, 2009

Good management means more fish in the sea, according to a new study. Efforts to curb overfishing have begun to succeed, and offer hope that fish stocks can rebuild if given a chance.

Belize Limits Reef FishingApril 27, 2009

With WCS research as a guide, the government of Belize enacts new laws to protect the country’s extensive coral reefs, considered to be the most pristine in the Western Hemisphere.

Penguins Dine Free in ArgentinaOctober 22, 2008

Argentina bans commercial fishing in Burdwood Bank, a key marine wildlife area in the Patagonian ecosystem that is home to albatross, penguins, whales, and seals, among other species.

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