Roughly 12 percent of the world’s population relies upon fisheries and aquaculture to make a living, and over half of the world’s population gets a majority of their protein from fish and seafood.
In some parts of the world, like Southeast Asia, the percent is significantly higher. In areas such as these, a large percent of meals are based around seafood and the fishing industry generates billions of dollars for the region.
Southeast Asia is known for having one of the most diverse marine ecysystems in the world, but overfishing is putting fishstocks in jeopardy. Across the region, 64 percent of the fisheries’ resource base is at a medium to high risk from overfishing, with Cambodia and the Philippines among the most heavily impacted.
Destructive fishing has grown in popularity recently and has played a large role in the declining numbers. Common methods of destructive fishing include poison fishing, which has become a heavily used way to commercial fish in reefs by using sodium cyanide to stun fish and make them easier to capture. Another method is blast fishing, which uses dynamite or grenades that are set off to kill fish in the vicinity. Both of these practices are illegal but still heavily used international waters are not heavily patrolled.
A good portion of overfishing in Southeast Asia is attributed to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and can range from small-scale local fisherman all the way to commercial trawlers. Due to the excess amount of fish being pulled out of the water, the supply of fish now exceeds the demand as millions of fish are left to rot when not sold.
Weak fishing regulations and a lack of science-based knowledge about the region’s marine ecosystems to inform policies for fish-stock management are to blame for the ravaged fish stocks. As well, there has not been very little money or management put into cultivating alternatives to traditional fishing such as sea-farming and inland freshwater aquaculture.
As the fish stocks in Southeast Asia decline rapidly, the competition for the remaining fish will be fierce and some experts warn that he region’s entire industry will collapse. To avoid an epic collapse, all countries in the region would need to end destructive fishing practices and reduce harvest by nearly 50 percent.
Time is precious at this point, cooperation between countries to solve the issue is slow. There has been talks that have been driven by scientists and conservationists but little has been done up till this point.