CI’s Dr. Bryan Wallace Discusses Declining Fisheries

The decline of global fisheries such as bluefin tuna, the unsustainable “race for fish”, and livelihoods of subsistence fishers were just a few of the issues addressed by CI Science Advisor Dr. Bryan Wallace in a recent interview on the Voice of America (VOA) public affairs program “On the Line.” It broadcasts on radio, television, and online in English-speaking countries around the world.

Together with conservationist and author Richard Ellis, Dr. Wallace answered host Eric Felton’s questions about drastically declining bluefin tuna stocks as one high-profile example of the many challenges confronting global fisheries and the people who depend on them, for food, health and income. Bycatch – the accidental capture and injury of marine life in fishing gear – is another devastating consequence of fishing methods that are practiced unsustainably.

It wasn’t all bad news though, as Dr. Wallace discussed different management and enforcement solutions that are demonstrating solid, measurable improvements in fisheries, including: time-area closures, catch-shares, marine protected areas, and partnerships with local communities. Many of these tools are being implemented by CI’s Seascapes programs around the world, and are helping fish stocks recover.

Interested in more? Watch or listen to the full interview.

Noting that challenges facing world fisheries are both complex and culturally sensitive, Dr. Wallace highlighted these additional points after the cameras stopped rolling:

  • More than 30 percent of all wild fish catch is consumed in the United States, Japan and the EU, despite these countries comprising only 12 percent of the world’s population.
  • When developed countries over-exploit fisheries in their own Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), they broker international agreements that allow them to continue to fish in EEZs of developing countries. Developed countries import much more seafood than they export, while developing countries tend to export seafood from their own waters abroad. These inequities reveal the importance of establishing a sustainable management system for fisheries – big and small – that distributes fish catch fairly among the stakeholders.
  • Bycatch – the unintended capture of species in fishing gear that are not the target species of the fishing activities – totals nearly 10 percent (about 9 million metric tons) of the total global fisheries landings (about 90 million metric tons). This bycatch includes fish of all shapes and sizes, invertebrates, corals and countless other creatures. As target stocks decline, bycatch is utilized and marketed, further eroding marine ecosystems. In addition, bycatch is a driver of population declines in marine megafauna like sea turtles, marine mammals, seabirds and sharks.

What can you do to reduce demand on our overfished waters? Start by knowing what you’re eating. Check out sustainable seafood guides by the Blue Ocean Institute and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. If you’re a seafood retailer or supplier, take a look at FishWise, the New England Aquarium and FishChoice – all great resources to help you pursue sustainable fishing practices.


  1. 55 gallon water barrel says

    I wish this would receive more press so the consumer could make intelligent choices. I doubt many give any thought to what kind of fish they order from the market or restaurant. Hollywood should make a dreamworks movie about the issue or it needs to be on all the news shows. Only through awareness and education can we hope to save the fish from over-fishing.

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