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Pressure on world's seafood supply as human population surges past 8 billion

The $394 billion seafood industry is facing pressure from overfishing which is threatening fish stocks.

An estimated 8.5 billion people will be swamping the planet by 2030, prompting a warning that the fishing industry must be reformed to meet the world’s demand for food.

Billions of humans rely on fishing for protein, but the US$257 billion (A$394b) industry is considered the world’s biggest threat to our oceans. The World Bank estimates close to 90 per cent of fish stocks are already fully exploited or overfished.

Examining how the world can continue to feed itself, Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) conducted research which found an extra 16 million tonnes of seafood could be harvested if the industry was to convert to sustainable fishing practices.

A woman shopping for fish in an Australian supermarket. She has a trolley and her back is to us.
Seafood, like fish, supports the protein needs of billions of people. Source: Getty (File)

The change could also help eradicate vitamin deficiencies in millions of people, when combined with 96 million tonnes of seafood it’s expected we’ll be hauling in by 2030.

The group’s chief executive Rupert Howes has urged governments to work to transform the fishing industry as we face “unprecedented pressure on the world’s food production systems”.

“A third of the world’s fish stocks are now under threat. If we manage to tackle the challenge of overfishing, then we help address food insecurity and prevent ill health,” he added.

Fishing killing dolphins, sharks and turtles

Overfishing doesn’t just impact people, the practice has led to over one-third of the world’s sharks, rays and chimaeras being threatened with extinction. Endangered sea turtles are also frequently inadvertently killed as bycatch, along with dolphins and sea birds.

Sustainable fishing can help eradicate the following deficiencies:

  • Iron in 4 million people

  • Vitamin B12 in 18 million people

  • Zinc in 2.5 million people

  • Calcium in 24 million people

  • Vitamin A in five million people

Why preventing these deficiencies matters

Vitamin A deficiency remains the leading cause of preventable blindness in children and anaemia affects around 40 per cent of pregnant women.

MSC also estimates 38 million people don’t have “healthy levels” of Omega 3, a supplement that can also be found in seaweed as well as oils including flaxseed, soybean and chia seeds.

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