Dr. David Magill
22 April 2013
Proposal: Assessing the Sustainability of Current Global Fisheries
Currently, fish are being caught and consumed on an unsustainable level and at this rate
fish species will face extinction in the upcoming decades if action does not take place. Currently,
the world’s population is approximately 7 billion people and is projected to increase to 10 billion
by the year 2050 (Arnett pg. 5). Consequently, fishing is projected to dramatically increase even
more than what is already unsustainable in the upcoming years as the population increases in
order to meet this demand. This has led to increased fishing efforts, which is being done in an
uncontrolled manner and is endangering the very existence of many aquatic species.
In-order to address the problem of the dwindling number of fish species, I’m proposing
an awareness campaign to consumers in my hometown of Roanoke, VA at the Mill Mountain
Zoo. My goal is to spark awareness about the pressures global fisheries face in the current global
market. I will try to reach as much of the community as possible, by making it an open public
event, featured in the Roanoke newspaper ad section, and by passing out as many small two-fold
pamphlet’s at local schools and businesses as possible. I hope this awareness campaign will
affect my community by educating them on why fish are important to our economy, the reasons
fish are being overharvested and how the fishing industry needs to adapt, in-order to save
dwindling fish species.
There are many individual benefits my audience will receive as a result of implementing
my plan. Although public awareness is often seen by adversaries as a wasted effort which will
not directly benefit any individual or group of people, is untrue. Public awareness is in fact the
most important starting point for change on a global scale. Without an educated and motivated
public, further change will not occur and the economy will not become smarter. The ensuing
benefits of a smarter fishery economy include, a more cost efficient market that is not headed for
collapse, and a saved marine environments that is not being fished down in size.
Currently, the world’s human population is growing exponentially and is projected to
increase by the year 2050. As a result of a growing population, fishing is projected to
dramatically increase over the upcoming years. At the moment, global fisheries are overfishing
the oceans which are resulting in altered environments and a further increase in fishing will
destroy the ocean environments entirely. Global fisheries are over consuming and over
cultivating the oceans. As they continue to do so, the marine environment and the natural ocean
ecosystem are disrupted; which not only threatens fish but also non-fished marine species, such
as sea lions and otters, as their food supply is removed.
In an article published in the Scientific Journal, entitled “Counting the Last Fish,” the
authors affirm that “in general, fishers must work farther offshore and at greater depths in an
effort to keep up with the catches of yesteryear and to try to meet the burgeoning demand for
fish.” The unfortunate reality is that fish are not an abundant natural resource, just like coal and
oil; they can be overexploited, causing grave alterations in the ocean environment.
As of today, because of a 1982 law, overfishing became rampant after the United Nations
adopted the Convention of the Law of the Sea, which was a significant factor contributing to
overfishing. The goal of the convention was to enact distinct fishing zones between countries to
impede arguing. One of the main exclusive rights that came out of the Convention was that
bordering countries of the sea had fishing rights up to 200 nautical miles off of their coasts and
held the right to limit who would be allowed to fish in their zones. Additionally, the 1982 law
gave bordering states the right to determine the total allowable catch for each fish species within
its nautical zone, which was designed to control overfishing. However, many bordering countries
on the Eastern continents took advantage of these exclusive rights. Most of the Eastern bordering
lands are developing countries that are relatively poor in comparison to developed countries.
Moreover, these developing countries would fish what was needed for their own economic needs
and the remaining fish were bid to developed country’s fisheries which would pay top dollar to
fish in their nautical zones. For developing countries, the 1982 law was not about preserving fish,
but rather about creating a market for selling fishing licenses to developed countries in order to
fish in their zones, thus making large profits for developing countries. The result of the law was
an increase in fishing because foreign competition was eliminated, allowing each country to take
full advantage of the global market and make large profits. Consequently, many people followed
into the fishing business to make money and in the process overharvested the seas (Pauly). Old
laws such as this one need to be abolished and/or renegotiated to fit today’s global market needs.
The 1982 law helped cause the current global crises of overfishing which is causing great
harm to the ocean’s ecosystem and leading to the extinction of popular tasting fish. A great
example of the overharvesting phenomenon is the destruction of Northern Atlantic Cod. Over the
last 500 years the Northern Atlantic Cod flourished among the coast, with abundant numbers.
They were a vital resource to the economies of the Northern Atlantic coast, ultimately sustaining
the populations. However, in the mid 1900’s they were targeted by fishing industries that had
just experienced a period of great technological growth. By the 1960’s, an astonishing two
million tons of cod were being harvested annually. Due to these huge catches in the sixties, a
marked decline ensued in the eighties and by 1992 the Northern Atlantic Cod fisheries had
collapsed. The fisheries depleted the population as a means of making an economic profit and
left the coasts once the sustainable yield was reached (Krebs).
As a result of overharvesting the populations of highly valued fish, such as the Northern
Atlantic Cod, a phenomenon occurs called “fishing down the food web.” Pauly describes this as
“what occurs when fishers deplete large predator fish at the top of the food chain, such as tuna
and swordfish, until they become rare, and then begin to target smaller species that would
usually be eaten by the large fish.” With a reduced number of highly valued fish with high retail
value, such as shark and swordfish, it is essential that they reproduce in-order to avoid extinction.
Unfortunately, fisheries are harvesting on the lower valued fish, which are the main diets of
highly valued fish, which is making it harder to hunt for food and harder to successfully
reproduce without an adequately food supply (Pauly). As a result of reduced numbers of both
highly valued fish and lower-level fish, the food web is fished down in size.
The elimination of lower-level and valued fish leaves a lasting negative effect on marine
ecosystems, such as the commercial harvest of menhaden. The small fish menhaden are very low
on the food chain and are the main diet of larger fish. Due to their bony bodies and lack of meat,
humans do not eat them. Non-the-less, they are the most highly harvested fish in the sea because
of their farmland use. They are grounded up and made into kibble and used to feed farmed
shrimp and fish, as well as land animals. Besides menhaden’s nutrition for farmed animals, they
are also filter-feeders in their natural habitats. Without menhaden filtering the waters of
shorelines, algae blooms take over the areas and deplete the waters of oxygen and nutrients,
creating dead zones (Franklin).
Shrimp farming is an unsustainable alternative to deep sea fishing that poses great
environmental dangers to surrounding oceanic habitats. Shrimp farming is considered an
improvement by many people compared to deep sea fishing, however; the waist management
system used in shrimp farming needs to be reevaluated because a high level of waist product is
dumped into surrounding seas which poisons and kills fish. At the moment, shrimp fishing and
farming has become one of the largest seafood industries is just the last two decades as a result of
a higher demand placed on the market by developed countries. Currently, the industry is worth a
“total annual production worth over (US) $10 billion at the farm gate (Roheim 2004) and over
$60 billion at the point of retail” and “for many developing countries, shrimp has become a
major source of foreign exchange and integrated often previously marginal coastal communities
into high value commodity networks” (Islam). An example of these developing countries is
Bangladesh, who is the largest shrimp exchange contributor in the world. Shrimp is a driving
industry for Bangladesh, employing many citizens; however at the same time the environment
pays the price with the product of excess wastes (Islam).
Shrimp farming compared to deep sea shrimp fishing is more economical, but also poses
great destruction to surrounding ecosystems as a consequence. In Holloway’s article “Blue
Revolution,” she described her travels to the Sonoran Desert on Mexico’s west coast as she
studied the consequences of shrimp farming. The shrimp farms in the area she studied covered
42 square miles of the desert, pulling in clean ocean water from one area and exporting dirty,
feces filled water back to the nearby oceans. The feces carry diseases that kill fish found on the
banks of oceans and excess nutrients which promote algae growth and use up oxygen.
Consequently, if fish are not killed by disease, then they die from oxygen deprivation.
Holloway’s research directly contradicts with the environmental mission of fish farming: the idea
that fish farming will save the populations of wild fish (Holloway).
The over cultivation of fish has many effects on economies as well as ocean
environments and ecosystems. Regarding ocean’s ecosystems, current fish populations are
dwindling fast and they can only reproduce at a certain rate and fishermen are exceeding that
limit. If we continue to fish at the same rate as we do today and do not make changes, the
world’s most sought after fish will become extinct; ultimately, compromising the ability of future
generations to enjoy the consumption of fish just as we do today.
Unfortunately, there is no simple or fast solution to achieve all of the steps necessary to
save the dwindling fish and sustain global fisheries. Some steps to make fisheries more
sustainable are described by Gould and Lewis and their three perspectives on sustainable
development: Free-Market Environmentalism, Policy/Reformist Sustainable Development, and
Critical Structural Approach to Sustainable Development.
Free-Market Environmentalism “call for individuals and corporations to take voluntary
actions to improve the environment” (Gould). There are no obligations for companies to change
their policies unless overwhelming public support requires that they do so. Therefore,
corporations involved with free-market environmentalism support this perspective. If consumers
do not agree with the perspectives of these means of production, they can stop buying these
products (Gould). On-the-other hand, if consumers are not pleased with fisheries, this approach
will not be effective because the public may not choose a sustainable route. There is a lack of
knowledge among the general public regarding these issues and money backing these markets
drive forward with little resistance. One of the reasons for a lack of public resistance is the
knowledge that sustainable output will mean higher costs and less available product. Naturally,
consumers will gravitate to the cheaper option and hope that sustainability will continue.
The Policy/Reformist Sustainable Development perspective establishes more political
control and declares, “don’t change the system; adapt it to meet the goals of the environment,
economy, and social equity” (Gould). This policy can only be implemented by wealthier nations
who can put in place programs that could fight pollution and other environmentally destructive
effects. For example, the Sustainable National Income (SNI) compares can have a substantial
influence on the economic profit by determining when fish are allowed to be harvested and how
many, and setting the number of boats allowed to fish.
The Critical Structural Approach states that as long as free markets dominate, profits and
economic development will always win out over environmental and social concerns (Gould).
The Critical Structural Approach calls for “dramatic changes to the structure of the global
economy, the goals that drive it, and the distribution of what it produces” (Gould). An example
of this approach would be to make free markets illegal and shut down global fisheries which
main goal is profits and economical development. It is not hard to see that this approach is very
unpractical as a means of solving the sustainability crisis.
Actions and regulations must be implemented and supported by society for global
fisheries to be sustainable. The development approaches established by Gould and Lewis is ideal
for sustainability, including: Free-Market Environmentalism, Policy/Reformist Sustainable
Development, and Critical Structural Approach to Sustainable Development. Other actions are
reforming policies about where and how many fish can be taken from the seas, such as the no-
take zones; lobbying for appropriate laws, restoring collapsed fisheries, setting up protected
areas, and educating stakeholders and the general public, through advertisements of all media
The scope of solving the issues of overfishing and conserving global fisheries, by passing
laws and regulations, is too large for me or any one person or a small group of people to
accomplish alone. My goal is to inform the public about the over cultivation of fish in the current
market place by holding an awareness campaign at the Mill Mountain Zoo in Roanoke, VA.
With public awareness, many informed citizens can make a difference by lobbying for the
following: laws and regulations, no fishing areas, restricted fishing zones, and the number of
boats allowed in fishing areas at one time, which all contributes to the sustainability of fish and
fisheries. Overall, by informing as much of the Roanoke Valley as possible through my
awareness campaign, bigger projects maybe possible in the future with the help of the general
public and organizational groups.
The following time line represents the plan of action that must be followed in order to run
a successful awareness campaign at the Mill Mountain Zoo in Roanoke, VA:
1. Contact the Mill Mountain Zoo about proposing a public awareness campaign and ask to
speak with a representative who could help set up the campaign.
2. Speak with Bambi Godkin, who is the education manager at the Zoo and is responsible
for working with schools/businesses and coordinating educational programs.
3. Seek approval from Bambi Godkin and schedule a one day public awareness campaign at
4. Receive, from Bambi Godkin, the names of local schools and businesses who are
interested in participating in the campaign.
5. Handout small two-fold pamphlets to interested local schools and businesses who would
like to participate in the awareness campaign.
6. Finalize the list of schools and businesses who would like to participate and break them
up into scheduled time slots for the campaign.
7. Assess the remaining available time slots on the campaign day (for the general public).
8. Feature the overfishing public awareness campaign in the Roanoke Times event section a
week before the scheduled event date and the available times for the general public’s
9. Prepare all materials needed on the day of the awareness campaign, pamphlets containing
a summary of the presentation for the viewers, PowerPoint presentation/ speaking scripts.
10. Hold the overfishing awareness campaign on the scheduled date at the Zoo.
The resources needed to run a single day awareness campaign at the Mill Mountain Zoo
are not substantial. The main resources needed are monetary fees for reserving the stage at the
Zoo, running a week long ad in the Roanoke Times Newspaper, and paper/ink costs necessary
for making the two fold information pamphlets. Further resources needed are human efforts,
including my own and Bambi Godkin, who will be in charge of contacting local schools and
business about the campaign. The costs for reserving the stage at the Zoo will be reduced as long
as the chosen date is on a weekday and on a day where there are no other competing needs for it.
Also, by running the campaign inside of the confines of the Zoo, instead of outside in the park,
the fees will be reduced further because all viewers will have bought an admission ticket for the
Zoo to witness the campaign. Moreover, the final estimated costs of reserving the stage for one
business day is at a reduced cost of $55 (Godkin). The next expense for the campaign is the
advertising section in the Roanoke Times Newspaper.
The Roanoke Times charges $3 per square inch, per day. The event will take up two
square inches in the newspaper and will need to be featured for 7 days. The total costs for
featuring the campaign in the Roanoke times will be forty two dollars. 3x2= $6 for one
day x 7 days total = $42.
The material costs are paper and ink which are included in the final price per page at the
Roanoke Country Library, which charges 10 cents per page (black print). Each page of
paper will make two pamphlets (two-fold- four folds in a page). A total of 1,000
pamphlets will be made for passing out to viewers of the campaign and any remaining
pamphlets will be handed out to anyone present in the Zoo, passing by the stage. Each
pamphlet will contain a detailed summary about the main points presented in the
awareness campaign. The cost of making 1,000 pamphlets will cost fifty dollars. 500
(pages) x 2 = 1,000 (pamphlets) 500 x .10= $50.
The above total cost for running this awareness campaign is one hundred and forty seven
dollars (stage $55 + newspaper $42 + pamphlets $50 = $147). The expense will be procured by
small donations that are not mandatory at the end of the campaign. If any person feels the need to
contribute to the above costs with a small donation, that will be acceptable. However, the
campaign costs (which are relatively small) will mostly fall upon my own financial budget.
Running an awareness campaign such as the one being proposed does not have any call to action
for raising money in the Roanoke valley community. If anyone wishes to make donations, they
are encouraged to make them out to major organizations such as “Greenpeace International” or
“pewtrusts.org.” Overall, this proposed campaign is not designed to cover its own financial costs
but to raise awareness and donations to larger organizations, such as the ones listed above, who
can better use the donations to produce larger scale awareness campaigns and evoke political
A Public awareness campaign on overfishing is often a great tool for entertaining crowds
and it may even cause them to consider or reconsider the harmful effects of overfishing.
However, very few people feel motivated enough to try and further pursue solving the problems
because they feel that the crisis is too big for their efforts. Many people are aware that in-order to
make change, it takes a large movement and overfishing is not a topic under heavy consideration
like global warming or other topics. My proposed way of addressing these concerns are by
suggesting donations to organizations such as “Greenpeace International,” “pewtrusts.org,”
(PEW) or the “Chesapeake Bay Foundation,” which are a few of the largest groups avidly
fighting against overfishing. These organizations take donations and run large scale public
awareness campaigns and other public events to further awareness. This method is simple for
any person as long as they have a credit card or wish to mail a donation to these organizations,
thus requiring no extra work beyond a donation.
A well balanced ocean, with a flourishing stock of fish is essential to the ocean’s
ecosystem. Without more efficient fishing policies, the remaining number of fish will dwindle,
causing a collapse in both the consumer market and the ocean’s environment. The community of
Roanoke, VA has an opportunity to expand their newly acquired knowledge from this campaign
at the Mill Mountain zoo, by doing a number of things. First, they may conduct more awareness
campaigns, which are essential for getting the word out and expanding the public’s awareness of
the current problems fish species and global fisheries face. Second, they may also lobby for
appropriate laws and the revision of old laws for the sustainability of global fisheries. Such laws
include reforming policies about where and how many fish can be taken from the seas and
locating more “no-take zones.” Finally, more appropriate actions that can be taken are restoring
collapsed fisheries, and setting up protected areas that will restrict the number of boats allowed
to fish in designated spots.
I chose the County of Roanoke Virginia for a number of reasons, including its population
size, its consumption of fish, and its connections to many major watersheds. Roanoke is the
tenth-largest city in the Commonwealth of Virginia and its total population makes up nearly
100,000. Roanoke’s watershed makes up some of the finest lakes and rivers for fishing on the
East Coast and consequently many fish are extracted there. Some of Roanoke’s largest rivers and
bays include: the Potomac- Shenandoah, Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic Ocean Coastal, York River,
James River, the Roanoke River, and many more. Furthermore, I decided on Roanoke as a means
for expanding overfishing public awareness because of the many Rivers, such as the James
River, that flow through Roanoke and eventually into the Atlantic Ocean.
There are many fish species that are being overfished from the Rivers and Bays listed
above, although I’m only going to specifically focus on the menhaden fish, which are being
overharvested from the Chesapeake Bay. I previously went into great detail about the menhaden
fish and their economic value, so I will not repeat that information. However, menhaden are a
major food source for the fish in Virginia’s fisheries, including the striped bass, bluefish,
weakfish, summer flounder, and many more (Stephen 2012). Also, the menhaden fish is the
largest fishery on the East Coast, and it is vital to Roanoke and many other Virginia
communities. Environmental organizations like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Pew are
pushing for sharp catch reductions (Stephen 2012). This means that many fishermen may lose
their jobs unless the Roanoke community is informed and motivated to take proper action to
reduce the menhaden catch and other fish species. I hope my awareness campaign will help
resolve the previously discussed issues on overfishing and help bring awareness to not only the
local issues of Roanoke but also to the major issues of global fisheries and economies.
Arnett J. Jeffrey. “Human Development.” Literature: A Cultural Approach. Jeffrey J. Arnett.
ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2012. Pg. 5 Print.
Franklin, H. Bruce. “The Most Important Fish in the Sea.” Discover (Sep 2001): 45-50.
Godkin, B. (2013, March 29). Email interview
Gould, K.A. and Tammy L. Lewis (2009: 269-289), “The Paradoxes of sustainable
development” in Gould, K.A. and Tammy L. Lewis (eds.).
Holloway, Marguerite. “Blue Revolution” Discover (Sep 2002): 58-63
Islam, Saidul. “Commercial Shrimp and Environmental Dilemma: Resistance and Response.”
Krebs, Charles J. “Chapter 17- Applied Problems: Harvesting Populations.” Ecology: The
Experimental Analysis of Distribution and Abundance. 5th
ed. San Francisco: Benjamin-
Cummings Pub Co., 2001: 318-323.
Pauly, Daniel, and Reg Watson. “Counting the Last Fish.” Scientific American (July 2003): 43-
Stephen. “Should Virginia Secede from the Menhaden Union?” The RoanokeStar.com (Jan