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Societal impact on communities

When waters become depleted of resources, coastal communities start to suffer.
© FoodUnfolded

The harmful consequences of overexploitation and ineffective management of fisheries are not only environmental, but also economic and social.

When waters become depleted of resources, coastal communities start to suffer.[1]

How many people are dependent on fisheries & aquaculture?

In 2020, an estimated 58.5 million people were employed in the fisheries and aquaculture sector. Taking into account the number of dependents, it is estimated that around 600 million people rely on the fisheries and aquaculture sector for their livelihoods around the world.[1]

Among these, millions of people live in largely developing coastal communities, and more than half of the world’s population relies on fish as a major source of protein.[2]

Small-scale vs industrial fishing

Today, small fishing boats, ,those under 12 metres in length, are responsible for only 5% of all the fish removed from EU waters. Industrial fishing, on the other hand, with their massive vessels, haul in hundreds of thousands of tonnes of fish per year. Small-scale fishing would offer obvious social benefits from more employment per catch, but it is the most affected by the depletion of marine biodiversity. Industrial fishing boats, with their enormous nets, can fish the little that is left more easily.[3]

The social impact of overfishing: The story of Atlantic cod

And when fish disappear from the nets of smaller fishing boats, so do jobs and coastal communities. There are many examples from around the world: the fishery for Atlantic Cod in the North-east United States has supported communities since the 16th century.

However, cod populations in the Gulf of Maine have reached record lows. In December 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that the fish populations were so low that fishing pressure should be reduced by at least 90% to assure their recovery.[4]

A survey conducted on the fishing communities of Maine has shown that the failure of the cod fishery resulted in severe psychological distress for fishing captains, and social disruption in fishing communities. Members of the fishing community started to struggle to make future plans, especially family future plans, and to turn elsewhere for sources of livelihood.[4]

Also, research has shown that the disappearance of the source of one’s livelihood due to man-made reasons (such as overfishing) is harder to rebound from compared to natural hazards. People suffering the consequences of human-caused disasters typically exhibit longer-term trauma and sociological problems compared to communities struck by natural disasters.

The latter recover faster because they find a supportive community and high social cohesion in the face of something bigger than them. The former, instead, risks getting caught in a knot of loss of trust, conflict, and litigation – and this makes it harder to find a way to solve the issues.[4]

Author: Silvia Lazzaris

© FoodUnfolded
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